Teacher evaluations are still a matter of opinion

Chances are if I mentioned the name Charlotte Danielson in passing, you wouldn’t know who I was talking about.

While she’s not the kind of popular celebrity you’ll find gracing the cover of People magazine, in the educational community she has certainly made a name for herself of late.

Danielson is the internationally recognized “expert” in teacher effectiveness – creating an evaluation system that dozens of states have instituted throughout their school districts.

I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the teaching profession, and truly applaud a system that will help weed out individuals who only choose this career for the summers off.

My association with many fine educators has allowed this outsider a rare glimpse into Danielson’s evaluation system. And while I commend her on the overall model, she neglects to take into account one very important factor which has been in existence since the beginning of time – personal opinion.

While we’d all like to believe that we live in a world where fairness prevails, rules are adhered to and individuals always do the right thing – we don’t.

Being in a business environment throughout my career, I can undoubtedly attest to the fact that personal opinion plays a large role in hirings, firings and the overall perception of an employee. That’s not a statement coming from a disgruntled worker – that’s reality.

It’s human nature to be critical and judgmental – some more than others obviously. To assume that people in positions of power leave their personal opinions at the door is simply naïve.

In short, as long as a living, breathing human being is handling the evaluation process – regardless of the industry – the results, good or bad, will always be skewed.

Danielson will argue that her model prevents such biases from entering the evaluation process – as documented proof is needed in order to render anyone effective or ineffective. While it might require more of an effort, it certainly is not impossible to find your way around if your district is simply looking for a way to terminate your employment.

Yes a system needs to be in place at every organization, educational institution and even in our own government, to measure the effectiveness of the jobs we’re performing. But if there’s even the slightest chance of personal opinion entering the process, you must ask “just how trustworthy are the results?”

Danielson has touted that her model is the most advanced system of measurement for the teaching profession. But from what I’ve seen first-hand thus far, it seems like more of the same rhetoric to me.

Marcus Aurelius once remarked that, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

I wonder if Ms. Danielson would agree.