For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. – H. L. Mencken
The problems of teaching, learning, and school leadership are complex. Perhaps that is why policymakers often respond with solutions that are “clear, simple, and wrong.” Or at least wrong in part.
Recent efforts to strengthen teacher evaluation provide an example.
There’s no question that improved teacher (and principal) evaluation is desirable. Evaluation methods used in most places in recent years have done little to improve teaching, support struggling teachers, and identify and remove educators who are incompetent.
But the effects of improved processes of teacher evaluation will be minimal unless they are well integrated with:
• Well-trained classroom observers, evaluators, and peer assistance teams.
• Peer evaluation and mentoring of teachers in their first few years of employment to ensure that only competent teachers are admitted into the profession and that they begin their teaching careers on a solid footing.
• Sustained, high-quality professional learning with coaching targeted at high-priority school and school system student learning goals.
• Participation by all teachers on instructional teams that have as their primary purpose the continuous improvement of teaching and learning for all students.
• School cultures that promote innovation and experimentation and that surround all members of the school community with encouraging and helpful relationships.
• Skillful principals and teachers leaders supported by skillful system administrators.
Effective leadership at both the school and district levels will determine to what extent these elements are integrated into a coherent, high-quality program of career-long development that serves students, the school community, and the teaching profession.