One year on an annual performance review, I was rated the equivalent of 60 percent on attendance, even though I hadn’t missed a single day of work and came in a half hour early every day. In fact, I didn’t score higher than 60 percent on any metric. In a year I broke a ton of stories and achieved other professional goals, I was rated a failure.
Performance reviews are an annual rite of subjectivity. The Wall Street Journal published a column saying it’s time to “put the performance review out of its misery” because many bosses have no idea how to make them meaningful.
Yet, we want to subject public school teachers to the very system that causes a tremendous amount of angst in the private business world.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced he will insist on a teacher evaluation system. The federal government has threatened to withhold millions of dollars from poor schools if the state doesn’t follow through.
All of this is happening despite no empirical evidence that teacher evaluation and incentive systems actually improve student performance. A recent study of the long term effect of good teachers found the data was gathered before high-stakes testing. Finnish schools – considered the best in the world – don’t evaluate teachers at all!
An essayist in the New York Daily News asked how teachers can be rated excellent if only 65 percent of their students graduate. I’d like to know why urban school teachers bear the brunt of the blame. This is not a coincidence. Urban school children are failing for a variety of reasons that cannot be quantified in teacher evaluations.
Of course, teachers should be evaluated and there’s plenty of room for reform, but there will always be a lot of subjectivity. Making teacher evaluations high-stakes could have dire consequences for the teachers who work with our most challenged students.
I’m glad I wasn’t fired that year. I might have been if I were a teacher.