Over the past few weeks there has been a flurry of letters and opinion pieces stressing the need for effective teachers.
The question, however, is whether the Pittsburgh Public School district’s proposed plan for teacher evaluation is an effective way to obtain such teachers.
The school district has always had the power to retrain or fire poor teachers, and, in fact, there has been a noticeably increased level of teacher turnover in recent years. What is different is that the district is now seeking to define effectiveness based in part on student questionnaires and “value added” calculations that have not been shown to be consistent and accurate.
Where exactly have these methods brought results?
An evaluation system that teachers perceive to be unfair and unreliable will drive good teachers away from the district. Pittsburgh public school students’ “only hope” cannot be an experiment.
If the Pittsburgh Public Schools must be the guinea pig, choose a few schools randomly and pilot the program on a small scale to prove that it works.
In the meantime focus attention and resources on measures that teachers say will help them to become more effective immediately, such as smaller class sizes, classroom assistants to provide individual help and later start times for high school students.