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Early Ed Watch

A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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2011 Hot Spots -- #4, Teacher Evaluation

Published:  January 4, 2011

A continuation of our predictions of big issues for 2011...

Don’t expect the debates on teaching quality to end anytime soon. We suspect that data from test scores (a la the Los Angeles Times series of 2010) will continue to be used to determine a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. Beyond the problems of relying on one strand of data, this approach also reinforces the unfortunate lack of attention given to the early grades, since statewide tests are typically, and appropriately, not administered to children younger than 8 or 9. 

This disregard of teacher quality in the early years has led to a sorry state in many schools. A 2007 study published in Science, for example, showed that only 10 percent of poor children experience high-quality instruction throughout their elementary school years. So we applaud the focus on effective teaching in principle. What we wish is that it would go much deeper. Teachers and principals should be assessing the quality of their instruction using research-based tools that feed on most teachers’ desires to improve.

Early childhood programs know this already. Tools like the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) are in use throughout the Head Start program and in several state-wide pre-k programs as well. (In fact, they may become a tool for determining which Head Start programs have to re-compete for funds.) These research-based tools use data from minute-by-minute observations of classroom interactions to determine where teachers excel and where they need to change their approach. According to anecdotal reports from teachers in these programs, the observational records are incredibly helpful in honing their craft.  Could this be the year for elementary and secondary schools to wake up to the potential of these kinds of tools?

Next Up: Hot Spot #5, Striving Readers and Other Competitions

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