Home > Teacher Accountability > The Best Way to Make Teachers Accountable by Kelli Hollenkamp

The Best Way to Make Teachers Accountable by Kelli Hollenkamp

As a future teacher, I am saddened to hear students complain about their high school experience and how awful it was. Several common complaints I hear are that the curriculum was too easy, too boring, or that they had a terrible teacher. I will admit that my high school experience was not perfect. I was prepared for college in some subjects, but not all. I cared more about the social aspect of high school than the academic one. I was not always pushed, and I could earn an A without having to work very hard. When I become a teacher I want to try and change my student’s mindset about school. I want to make sure that my students learn all that they need to know in my class so that they are prepared for the real world.  In my opinion, the major problem with our school system is teacher accountability. Teachers are not held to a high enough standard and the evaluations of them are not sufficient enough. Too many teachers in the profession have lost their love of their job and it is reflected in their classroom. Teachers need to be evaluated and if their evaluations show that their teaching is unsatisfactory then they need to be fired.

There are several ways that teachers are evaluated. The first method, value-added, shows a teacher’s effectiveness by tracking student achievement on tests over a period of time. The problem with this method is that there are several reasons that a great teacher could get a horrible value-added model even if they are a good teacher. The value-added results could be skewed because of students who have bad test anxiety, a disability, an unwillingness to learn, or outside factors such as the student’s home environment. Also, teacher’s value-added scores are often made public allowing parents to access the score of their child’s teacher which often leads to complaints about the teacher. Not only is this very embarrassing for the teacher, but teachers might resort to altering their curriculum to focus on the material that is on the test in order to make sure that their students perform well. In some school districts, teachers will get raises based on their student’s performances on tests.

Another method of assessing a teacher is having student’s fill out an evaluation about the effectiveness of the teacher. This method is commonly used in college classes and, as a current college student, I am usually given a form to fill out at the end of every semester to reflect on my professors. I think that college students are mature enough to give honest evaluations based solely upon the professor’s effectiveness. Middle and high school students, however, often reason with their emotions rather than their intellect. Unfortunately, middle and high school students would probably give good evaluations to teachers who gave them a good grade or whose class was easy. Similarly, if a student was really challenged in a class or earned a bad grade, they would rate the teacher badly regardless if the teacher was a good teacher. Middle and high school students are also not aware of all of the qualities of a superb teacher. Another ineffective methods is having teachers evaluate other teachers. The problem with this is that teachers might give biased evaluations based on the relationship with the teacher being evaluated.

During my school experience, teachers were evaluated by officials that sat in and observed a lesson. I found this method of evaluation very flawed. Since teachers were aware that the official was coming, they would bribe me and my classmates so that they made a good impression. I can remember one of my middle school teachers promising my class candy to answer the questions that she asked during the observation. Planned observations can never give an accurate representation of a teacher because a teacher can falsely portray a higher quality classroom experience than is present on an everyday basis.

It is very hard to evaluate a teacher’s proficiency. In my opinion, the best way to evaluate a teacher would be surprise observations. An official should be sent to a classroom without the teacher being aware that they are coming. This method of evaluation would prevent teachers from deceiving the officials. The observer would be able to get an accurate portrayal of how the classroom is run on a daily basis. Teachers would give the observer their lesson plan so that the official could see how well the teacher follows it. Teachers who fail their surprise evaluations should be referred to the school principle. The principle would then decide  the teacher’s punishment. I think that teacher’s who fail their evaluations should have further surprise evaluations by the principal, district officials, or fellow teachers. As a future teacher, I would not be offended if someone came to observe me without notice. A teacher should approach every lesson as if someone was observing them. If they put as much effort into their everyday lessons as they do when they know they are being observed, their students would definitely learn more. Surprise observations would keep teachers prepared, and teachers would view every teaching day more importantly because their job could be on the line.

It is very important to evaluate teachers to make sure that they are educating their student’s correctly. Getting feedback from an evaluation can improve a teacher’s efficiency. Self evaluating is an essential part in teaching but it also helps to have an outsider give their opinion. The outsider might be able to point out strategies the teacher could use to reach more of the students or strategies that the teacher is using that do not seem effective. I think that students would have a more positive outlook on their school experience if they had better teachers who enjoyed their job. Teaching is not a profession for everyone and unfortunately, some people do not realize that teaching is not for them until they enter the classroom. Instead of paying a lot of money to go back to college and switch their profession, a lot of people would rather keep a job even if they hate it. As a result, schools need better methods of evaluating teachers to ensure that they have the most qualified teachers in their classrooms.

  1. Mark
    December 1, 2010 at 2:29 am

    Kelli, while I enjoyed your article and found it well argued, I have to disagree with your premise. My question for you is this: Is a teacher the primary and only factor in a child’s academic success? As a future teacher, I believe you’ll eventually find that a child’s home life, especially their parental support and involvement are the key indicators in a student’s engagement in their academic success, and not the proficiency of the teacher.

    Do the parents put an emphasis on reading at an early age? Do they espouse the importance of education? Do they monitor whether a child does their homework or not? Is there an expectation that the child attend college, or even finish high school? These are important factors that will be out of your scope of influence as a teacher, but will definitely affect the results of your students. Even proper nutrition and sleep affect academic achievement. Can you ensure these things as a teacher?

    The sad truth is that teachers have less influence on the quality of education our children receive than we would like to believe. Even the world’s greatest teacher cannot lead a student to achieve if there is no support for achievement outside the walls of the classroom.

    And that’s why, in my humble opinion, teachers get frustrated and and sometimes go through the motions after a few years. Because they have learned the hard way, what some people have already figured out: the family’s emphasis on education is the most important indicator of a student’s success.

    Instituting teacher accountability frameworks in school age education institutions ignores most of the issues associated with poor academic achievement and engagement. If an 16 year old is allowed to play video games until 2am every night, doesn’t eat food with any nutritious value and has no one to even ask him (or her) about their homework, how can you help that child achieve? It’s a daunting task. I hope you’re up to it, because the world could use more engaging teachers.

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