The state of Nevada will launch its first mandatory teacher evaluation system when the new school year begins next week. Such a program is long overdue.
As reported Sunday by the Review-Journal’s Trevon Milliard, teachers and school-level administrators will earn one of four designations, ranging from ineffective to highly effective — replacing the current, narrower designations of satisfactory and unsatisfactory. The scoring system has not yet been constructed, but it will be composed of two equally weighted parts: a principal’s observations of a teacher on five standards, and on student scores from state tests.
The more than 17,000 Nevada public school teachers — out of a total of 25,000 — who will be evaluated under this roll-out have many concerns, particularly being rated on test scores for students they didn’t have in subjects they didn’t teach, or perhaps both, as Mr. Milliard noted. However, the difficulties involved in creating an evaluation system are no reason to not have one. It’s simply too important, particularly since billions of tax dollars are poured into public education every year.
The current teacher rating system is so insufficient that it screams out for something new, even if reformed evaluations need some ironing out over time. Mr. Milliard reported that under the current satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating system, based on principal observations, a whopping 90 percent of Clark County teachers are rated satisfactory. If such an overwhelming majority of teachers achieve that rating, then why do the Clark County School District and teachers unions continually push for more money, with another tax increase proposal slated for the 2014 ballot? It would seem that all is well from a funding standpoint, if one looks at the evaluations.
Furthermore, if those ratings hold true, why are so many of the state’s key success markers so poor, with Nevada consistently ranking last or close to it in state-to-state student performance comparisons? That would seem to make the “satisfactory” rating much more hollow and hardly satisfying.
A broader evaluation system would be much more valuable for everybody — those being rated and those doing the rating. The new evaluation process isn’t solely about rewarding top educators and rooting out the worst. The most important component is identifying the vast number of teachers who are doing OK within the current system, but could be doing much better — turning good teachers into great teachers, through a more informative rating process. As a teacher, what would speak better of your efforts: “satisfactory” or “highly effective”?
Even Theo Small, vice president of the 18,000-strong Clark County Education Association, admits, “The current system isn’t working.”
Indeed. There may be some hiccups, and some areas of the evaluation might rightly merit changing. But students, parents and all the taxpayers whose dollars support public education deserve a broader process that brings more accountability and helps teachers learn to do their jobs better.