Everyone who supports public education believes that only effective teachers should be in the classroom; ineffective teachers who can’t improve should lose their jobs. Accomplishing this requires a sound method for evaluating teachers and a fair process for firing. In the current system, school principals have the responsibility to assess teachers’ performance and dismiss ineffective ones. Making sure that principals do this well is the district superintendent’s responsibility (not the teachers’). The system works if administrators at all levels and school boards do their jobs.
Even with these assumptions stated, a productive discussion can’t begin without first addressing two questions: what accounts for variations in student achievement, and what is the overall state of K-12 education in the United States?
While ed reformers push a top-down technocratic procedure, the programs for assessing teacher performance that actually work take a radically different approach. They’re based on two assumptions: administrators and teachers should design and implement a program together, and it should incorporate “professional development” (showing teachers how to improve). One such program—“Peer Assistance and Review” (PAR)—is being used successfully in seven school districts around the country: in Toledo since 1981, Cincinnati since 1985, Rochester since 1987, Minneapolis since 1997, San Juan since 2000, Montgomery County since 2001, and Syracuse since 2005.