I heard a story on NPR yesterday about New York City releasing teacher ratings to the public. Los Angeles has already done this, and if NYC follows suit, I would expect school districts all across the country to jump on the bandwagon. I know a lot of people, forward-thinking educational reformers, think this is a good thing. I'm not so sure.
As a parent it seems like a good idea. If you know who the best teachers are, you can push to get your kids in their class. Of course, everyone will want the top-rated teachers, and since this isn't possible, it stands to reason there could be some unintended problems if a rating system is made public. I'm not sure pundits have thought this through. Seems like an awful lot of politicking will ensue. The pushiest parents get the best teachers. That doesn't seem like an answer to our problems.
As a teacher, I have concerns as well. Ratings will alienate teachers on the lower end of the scale, possibly driving people from the profession. Some would say this is a good thing, get rid of the dead weight. Again, this sounds good in theory, but who's going to take their place? Last I checked, people aren't exactly lining up to work in America's public schools. I'm not saying that means Amercian kids have to settle for inferior teachers, it's just too easy to say getting rid of all the bad teachers will solve the problems.
The ratings are heavily based on standardized test scores. A growing number of people seem to think a teacher is only as good as the standardized test scores of their students. I agree that the scores are important, but they don't tell the whole story. Let's say I have a class of kids. Every single one of them failed the standardized test the year before they come to me. After a year with me, they all still fail. Am I a bad teacher? Not necessarily. What if each of those kids improved by 20% on the test? Would that change your mind? I think most reasonable people would say I did a helluva job, and yet, the way these ratings are done, I will very likely be rated poorly. I don't think that's fair.
I have other problems with these ratings, both as a parent and a teacher. Teachers are taking a beating from both the right and the left these days. One of the only things Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that evil teachers are ruining public education. I think it's only a matter of time before rating teachers is standard practice across the country. What do you think, is it a good idea?