Vogel: Teachers should embrace the new evaluation system
I've been a New York City public schoolteacher, a journalist, a stand-up comic and a playwright, and I can say without question that teaching was the toughest challenge of them all. I still have scars from the classroom, and I'm talking literally.
So I have lots of sympathy for educators. But though the recently revised teacher evaluation process makes many of them angry, I'm convinced it will be positive not only for students, but for teachers as well -- at least the good ones, who are by far in the majority.
The system will rate teachers using a combination of classroom observations, standardized tests and student feedback, according to state Education Commissioner John King. The teachers union has been blocking any system that would weed out incompetent teachers for decades, so congratulations, Commissioner.
I remember great fellow teachers who made learning an exciting experience. I also recall the entitled goof-offs and burnouts who were protected by the system.
Most teachers privately admit the presence of at least one or two incompetent educators in each of their schools. There are some 1,700 public schools in the city, so if we played out those numbers, that would be up to 3,400 ineffective teachers. Yet the New York Daily News wrote in 2010 that only 88 teachers had been fired over the previous three years. Most remain, wasting a precious year of their students' educations. Time to cut them loose.
But there are problems with the new system. Many teachers understandably fear that some principals will protect their friends -- and that's a real concern. Good teachers who challenge principals' decisions may find a target on their backs.
And a veteran teacher I know predicts a surge in an already existing problem he drily calls "tutoring during the tests." With jobs on the line, expect a big jump in borderline teachers "guiding" their students during the standardized exams.
Still, though the new system is imperfect, it's better than what we've got. Getting rid of the incompetents will make everyone's life easier, including fellow teachers who have to pick up the pieces of students' lost academic years. But what is the state planning to do about these issues, the "danger ahead" signs on the noble road to teacher accountability?
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.