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Teacher evaluation drive opens a money pit

By TIMOTHY EGAN

Publication: The Day

Published January 26. 2014 4:00AM

The Jan. 19 editorial - "Money needed to do proper evaluations" - calling on Stonington and all regional towns to support increased spending for education in large part to fund new teacher evaluations, misses an important aspect of this issue. Are these evaluations and the time, energy and expense to implement them worth it?

As a former member of the Waterford Board of Education and a veteran teacher, I would argue no. These bloated and cumbersome instruments require far too much time and effort to justify unproven benefits in student achievement. The primary focus for teachers ought to be student success, but these bureaucratic micromanaging evaluation instruments have much more to do with data collection than they have to do with teaching and learning.

They reduce the "art" of teaching to series of set procedures to be followed, a boring formula of practice, in the pursuit of quantifiable data that is not reliable and often not scientific.

And to what end?

The stated purpose is to improve instruction, but from a teacher's point of view it seems much more like an inquisition. It makes the assumption that prior to the implementation of this system teachers were not reflective on their practice, they never before considered the efficacy of their instruction, and that without this oversight they were unlikely to grow as professionals.

The focus of this evaluation process places the responsibility of student achievement almost entirely on the teacher, and the subscribed practice, while relieving the student of all accountability. This is a prescription for student failure, not success.

The achievement gap we see in cohorts of students can be traced very easily to the level of student engagement and family involvement in the educational process. The Quixotic quest for a magic pill, a prescribed process that results in universal educational success, has led us down a rabbit hole of data collection and assembly line solutions for the dynamic, creative art of teaching.

As with many previous reform movements in education, it is likely that this too shall pass, but to ask taxpayers to buy into this with real dollars when education budgets are tight and real programs are underfunded is dubious.

Timothy Egan lives in Waterford.

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