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Teacher Evaluation

The Charge and the Challenges


Kate O'Hara

The evaluation of teachers is at the forefront of national discussion, with the divide on the topic growing increasingly deeper. Teachers are under attack, in a war waged from the top down, complete with private entities, standardization, and a limited view of what it means to be «good» or «effective». In both teacher preparation programs and in our public schools, teachers entering the profession and practicing in classrooms face evaluation measures that are biased, unreliable, and reliant upon quantitative outcomes. Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges aims to «talk back» to the national rhetoric about teacher evaluation and accountability measures, with a call for all educators, policy makers, activists, scholars, and reformers to engage in critical dialogue and democratic practices.
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Chapter 4. Evaluating Teachers: Making Meaning Out of the Madness


We are in a tumultuous time in public education and teachers are at the heart of the conflict. From politicians to practitioners, the evaluation of teachers is at the forefront of national discussion. Although it is a universal goal to support effective teaching and improve student learning, a divide on the topic has emerged and is growing deeper.

In August 2012, at a meeting in Maryland with 850 Baltimore County teachers, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “Change is always hard, and top-down accountability too often feels punitive. At the end of the day, accountability comes from within—from teachers holding themselves to high standards because they take their profession seriously and want to see children succeed.”

Who would argue against that goal of accountability? It’s the accountability system that is called into question. As a former secondary classroom teacher and K-12 teacher educator, and now a professor in the field of teacher education, I have yet to meet a teacher who has not taken his or her “profession seriously.” On the contrary, the teachers I know and work with struggle daily to be treated as a professionals. They diligently toil to provide their students with meaningful learning experiences, and they donate their time well beyond the traditional school day, exemplifying “accountability from within.” ← 59 | 60 → And yet these teachers are expected to produce modules of test prep, as they have been reduced to “unskilled laborers who deliver the correct goods to the students—nothing...

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