If you believe the TV ads, satisfied subscribers use Angie’s List to hire reliable contractors and even find health care providers.
NY teachers wonder what Andy’s List list will look like. The courts have said parents statewide can access teacher evaluations. Concerned parents will consult Andy’s List to find “the best” teachers for their children . I am a teacher, but I am also a parent; parents should be able to trust the numerical calculations evaluating their children’s teachers.
But there’s a rub.
What does “best” mean? How will “best” be measured? Will a teacher have to have a good beat and be easy to dance to in order to score big on the Instructional Hit Parade?
Unlike a plumber whose work is appraised by the end result–do your pipes leak? does your heat work? – a teacher’s labor is not so simply evaluated. It’s not that the job a plumber does is less complicated. A plumber has to diagnose the problem, use the right materials, keep destruction/disruption to a minimum, leave the home as he found it and keep the cost to the customer manageable. It’s just that in education, there are intangibles even the best mechanisms for evaluations can’t account for. Truancy. Poverty. Affluence. Violence. Adult substance abuse. Youth substance abuse. Hardly a comprehensive list, but daunting even in its brevity.
That APPR goddess, Charlotte Danielson, offers districts evidence-based teacher evaluation consisting of four domains, each with a rubric, each with an assigned point value. 60% of a NY teacher’s Andy’s List assessment will be derived from his/her standing on the Danielson Scale. And in theory, Sweet Charlotte’s system should work. But hush, hush! Everyone knows what is meant by ”in theory.” The practice often fails to measure up. Even with these scoring rubrics, there is room for inconsistency, for inaccuracy, for dishonesty.
Another 20% of a NY teacher’s rating on Andy’s List will be computed using student scores on standardized tests. Is data from testing reliable? When tests are flawed, test results will be skewed. When kids are truant, test results will be skewed. When districts can’t provide appropriate support for at-risk kids, test results will be skewed. When kids don’t have enough to eat or a place to do homework, test results will be skewed. Should a teacher’s professional reputation be evaluated using skewed results? Probably not. But will most parents know this when they consult Andy’s List? Probably not.
Then there is what is being called “the local 20.” These teacher designed tests should illustrate student growth, but since the minds behind Andy’s List have provided so little in the way of actual guidelines, the concept of “the local 2o” varies from district to district and reeks of inconsistency.
Teaching is a profession and as such, practitioners should be required to uphold standards of competence. This is a prerequisite toward reclaiming the respect that a career in education once promised. However, for evaluations to be worthwhile and accurate, the system has to be both manageable and reliable.
Albany wants the public to embrace Andy’s List the way subscribers rave about Angie’s List, but unless the reviews prove trustworthy, this might be a tough sell.