Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making it up as they go along

Superintendent of Education John White is all a-twitter about the “Classroom Support Toolbox” touted in this article by Advocate reporter Will Sentell, but there is actually less here than meets the eye.

About all that is really new – aside from the public relations campaign designed to put a smiley face on the widely despised COMPASS evaluation system – is a series of videos intended to show best practices to teachers.

There is also the announcement that the State Department will train some 2,000 teachers to be experts in the details of the tool box, and to help their colleagues understand the new common core standards.

All of which just reinforces the impression that this department is making it up as they go along.

But while the department’s details are all squishy, tentative and subject to tweaking, the effects on teachers are concrete. New Web sites and self-help videos do nothing to help teachers who have already been observed and are well n the way to having their evaluations set in stone.

So here’s a suggestion for lawmakers preparing for the session that begins on April 8: Set all of this year’s evaluations aside. Use the experience as an example of what happens when radical changes are imposed without adequate forethought, preparation or transparency.

Go back to the drawing board. Work with real teachers to develop an evaluation system that is accurate and fair, and that truly reflects the value that teachers bring to their classrooms.

Field test it well, and work out the problems before it becomes the rule by which teachers live. That would go a long way toward rebuilding faith and trust in the legislature and in the Department of Education.

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