Although the Times acknowledged that this measure does “not capture everything that goes into making a good teacher,” that’s exactly how the paper used this data. In its race to create dramatic headlines, the paper sacrificed both the tenets of responsible journalism and the reputations of thousands of teachers through this deceptive presentation of complex data. What parents aren’t going to type in their child’s teacher’s name and make an instantaneous judgement?
To some extent, I’m inclined to agree with the union on this one. Rating teachers isn’t an exact science, and the endless push for testing does encourage teachers to teach towards the test rather than giving the students an education. Teachers are also trapped between school systems which must bring their rated performance up and at the same time work towards “outcome-based” education, which tends to encourage passing students from grade to grade.
The real problem here is that parents have few options with the state supported monopoly of public schools in the US. Oh, yes, there are charter or magnet schools for the few who get there, and some places still have vouchers. But the trade union hates all of these. If schools were allowed to compete for students and parents had real choices, schools in general and teachers in particular would have to withstand the ultimate rating.
As an educator (albeit a latecomer to the party,) I’d rather take my chances with a system that gives institutional choices rather than criteria which may or may not reflect the perceived or real needs of the society at large. The best way for those to find expression in the system is to have school choice. The trade union hates this too, but after years of political muscle they may be coming to a point where difficult choices for their members have to be made.