The problem is that the big teachers unions have not been credible participants in the conversation about reform, resisting efforts to incorporate test scores in the evaluation process, and fighting the consequences that must accompany bad evaluations. For its part, the Times plans to publish an online database with ratings for more than 6,000 elementary-school teachers based on test-score data. That is not fair to the teachers, who deserve a more comprehensive evaluation. But who is to blame for the absence of one?
The full story is depressing, but not surprising. All organizations resist reform because there is the very real risk that it will be disagreeable and uncomfortable. You can’t fault the teachers unions for that. But you can’t give them a pass either. Common sense says there are bad teachers, just as there are bad architects, dentists, and college professors. The unions need to propose a solution or else they’ll be given one they really won’t like. Good teachers are being tainted by the support of bad teachers and the bad teachers are missing the chance to do something else, where they might find success.
I’ve heard teachers say that they can’t be fairly evaluated. Their “work product” depends upon a lot of exogenous factors: demographics, parental involvement, resources, etc. But isn’t this true for most jobs? Employment isn’t always fair. but why should the employment and evaluation of teachers be held to a higher standard?