Book Review                                                 Page 39


Getting Teacher Evaluation


What Really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement 


by Linda Darling-Hammond, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2013, 178 pp., $68 hardcover, $25.95 softcover

Much to Linda Darling-Hammond’s credit, her latest book Getting Teacher Evaluation Right is devoted to explaining problems with evaluating teachers based on students’ achievement gains on state tests.

As she explains, these evaluation results are unstable. Student performance is un-attributable to an individual teacher, and performance results are not comparable between teachers assigned to different grades and subjects.

Measuring the value-added by a teacher would require knowing not only how much students have learned in a given year, but also the rates at which those particular students learn. Then too, students would need to be randomly assigned to teachers, as a teacher teaching a class of low-achieving students with a history of discipline problems could not be expected to produce achievement outcomes comparable to a class of high achieving well-behaved students.

Recognizing these problems, Darling-Hammond recommends teacher evaluation based on multiple measures of learning. I wish she would have stuck with an early statement in her book that “one critically important feature of productive [teacher evaluation] strategies is that they require teachers to collect, examine, interpret, and use evidence about student learning to reflect on and plan instruction, and to inform improvements.” That requirement focuses on student achievement without, as Darling-Hammond says, adopting “an individualistic, competitive approach to ranking and sorting teachers that undermines the growth of learning communities.”

By requiring teachers to maintain verifiable assessments of student achievement on district- approved pre-defined curriculum standards, this also likely would reduce the discrepancy between student grades and standardized test scores.

Darling-Hammond believes a good teacher evaluation system has got to be “manageable and feasible” and not so complex that it “overwhelms the participants with requirements and paperwork.” A good teacher evaluation system must weed out the worst teachers; use judgments that go beyond mere personal opinion; and facilitate public accountability. A good teacher evaluation system should protect and indeed encourage teacher ingenuity, creativity and initiative.

What good is a teacher evaluation system that is so bothersome and intrusive that it destroys the dedication of the vast majority of teachers in order to build a case against a few?

Reviewed by Louis Wildman, professor of educational administration, California State University-Bakersfield


Give your feedback

Share this article

Order this issue