Thursday, September 27, 2012
Common Core and Teacher Evaluations: The Beginning of the End?
Here are some of the opinions swirling around:
1. Educators already know how to handle education—and everyone else can leave the same way they came in, please.
It’s a strong argument. You certainly don’t see as much legislation around how doctors perform their work (though there are certainly plenty of laws, rules, and regulations to account for); at least, there have yet to be surgeon strikes on how their surgeries are evaluated.
Now the Common Core Standards dictate what students need to be able to do. It is a departure from simply what they should be able to know (read: regurgitate) to what skills students can demonstrate, the latter implying a change in how the information is maintained. Followed on the heels of the Common Core Standards are the new InTASC Standards, aligned to the Common Core. The InTASC Standards are for teachers what the Common Core is for students, with one great exception: if students fail to meet the Common Core Standards, teachers are worried that they will be fired, and if teachers fail to meet the InTASC Standards, teachers still worry that they will be fired.
So it’s hardly a wonder that educators want to take education back, so to speak. Everywhere we look, there are sticks to beat us into compliance with few carrots in sight.
2. Educators aren’t cutting it, so legislation has to step in.
At the risk of sounding biased, I’m going to say that this very opposite opinion is tenuous at best. The definitions of “success” and “cutting it” vary, and simply being better than the rest of the world is actually (in my opinion) a poor measure of performance. Being better than someone else has little to do with how well your personal best may be; by the same argument, the only thing we need to do to improve our current “success” rate is wait for Finland to dumb down their curriculum. Of course that won’t happen, but the target should be greater than simply beating out the next guy.
Besides, I know of a few senators and representatives that I would love to evaluate and list as “subpar.” So why should their largely uninformed (and potentially well funded) opinions on education hold sway on my job?
Here’s the good news: legislators may not be on our side, but the Common Core Standards are—or can be.
The media (liberal and conservative alike) has done a curious job with the Common Core Standards, first by adoring our president and then by smearing the Common Core Standards as government overreach and pointing the finger at Mr. Obama. But the Common Core Standards offer us another shot at our classroom. We need to help students create skills—however we choose to do that. There are recommendations to aid our lesson planning, but these are standards, not curricula.
Evaluations, many based on the Common Core Standards, are also prominently displayed as a means to thin the ranks, so to speak. But when evaluations are done correctly, we use them as classrooms to help teachers learn rather than courtrooms where teachers must stand trial. The funny thing about an evaluation is that we are too often looking for faults. And we always find what we’re looking for.
If the Common Core Standards and teacher evaluations are handled the right way, then this could be the beginning of the end: the end of low teacher support, the end of untrained educators, the end of poor education. And it could be the start of something much, much greater for every teacher in America.