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Students evaluating teachers gives many concerns

From a reader

Well, I struggle with the student evaluation part of the idea. If, at the end of the day, a student believes he or she is learning, that is the goal. Students usually will say some version of the following:

1. I like the teacher, but I don't really learn all that much.
2. I hate the teacher; she/he teaches me nothing.
3. I like the teacher, and I learn so much.
4. I don't love the teacher, but I learn so much.

Typically, students won't learn much from a teacher they hate. I have never heard a kid say that he/she hates a teacher but learns a lot. They may say that a teacher is mean, but that just signifies that the teacher is more strict and has good classroom management. I will never understand when people want to teach, but they don't feel like they need to connect with students. 

Now, I am not saying teachers should be up-to-date on pop culture, but students should feel respected and supported throughout the educational process. I am not the teacher students go to when they are having a difficult time at home or work or whatever (at least not usually); however, I connect with my students because I get them to understand that the skills I am teaching them will take them to college and beyond. I am there for them when they need help with the academic, and I understand when the non-academic interferes with the academic. I hold them accountable, just like I hold myself accountable for my teaching. If most of the students don't get it, I may need to reteach the concepts. And I admit when I am wrong; students respect that.

Also, VAM means nothing without context, so it should NEVER be used in the evaluation process. Principals should instead be able to look at teachers within the same schools and throughout the district concerning scores. If 2 ELA teachers are teaching relatively the same students in terms of reading level, the gains should be similar. If they are way high or way low, then that needs to be considered concerning the evaluation. Unfortunately, there is still more to it. If 1 ELA teacher has an awesome reading teacher to collaborate with or a history teacher who regularly reinforces reading skills, then that is benefit to the students/teacher. Another teacher may not have that same support.

My suggestion is to allow good teachers to be assigned to schools to assess other teachers, not AP's who regularly have an average of 3 years of teaching experience. Let the AP's deal with the students, who they usually don't spend enough time dealing with anyway. Master teachers can really see the pedagogy behind the lesson and actually help teachers who need help. When an AP with limited experience tells even a new teacher what to do, it comes off as usually unhelpful and punitive. 

I struggle with the start of the article most of all. "Public school teachers are the most important in-school factor in student achievement." Of course, this makes the most sense; however, the reality is that teachers in Duval just don't stay. If we had people itching to be teachers, then okay, be harsh. The truth is that none of this will matter. Duval doesn't attract the best of the best because the best teachers want to be at schools that will give them autonomy and respect. Eventually good teachers seem to matriculate out of the most difficult schools. Now, some may stay, but they are rare indeed. Look at the average teaching experience of teachers at each school. Holding teachers accountable who only stay 1-5 years inevitably will lead to nothing. Attracting people who are invested in the community, who want to stay, who are not told what to do, who feel like they are building a school culture, and who are paid a respectable wage should be the ultimate goal.

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