Pilot program could lead to better ways of rating teachers and principals
School districts around Washington state ought to be vying to be part of a two-year pilot program bent on improving teacher and principal evaluation systems.
VIGOROUS debate about evaluating teachers and principals should lead to a healthy number of school district applications for a two-year pilot project.
Widespread disagreement about education policy practically disappears when it comes to our current system of rating teachers and principals. A binary system based on satisfactory and unsatisfactory ratings, most agree, offers skewed and incomplete pictures of teaching and learning.
A more-robust, multilayered and textured system is needed. Narrowing it down through a series of pilot efforts by districts around the state is the right course of action.
School districts have until Friday to post online applications for an iGrant by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The eight or so districts chosen will receive $100,000 to $200,000 a year to pay for testing new ways of measuring teachers and principals. The eventual goal should be a well-tested model that can be implemented statewide.
An emphasis on teacher and principal effectiveness is an appropriate component of reform efforts. Outside of the home, effective teaching and school leadership are the most important factors in student learning. Zeroing in on the best teaching and leadership practices will rightfully drive future policy and professional development efforts.
Already, some components of a measuring stick are rising to the top. Student academic growth — including but not limited to standardized test scores and student work — should be significant factors in teacher evaluations. Principal evaluations and peer reviews, such as third-party observations, are also key to an accurate and fair system.
Another idea would be to have students rate teachers, perhaps through straightforward but illuminating questions such as whether a classroom atmosphere is conducive to learning.
By the 2013-14 school year, all districts statewide must have robust evaluation systems. This pilot project takes us in that direction.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.