Everyone wants effective teachers in the classroom. But what is an “effective” teacher and how do we measure teacher effectiveness?
That long-standing question has now been answered by Georgia legislators with HB244, which mandates that next year, teachers in the state will be evaluated by the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System, better known as TKES.
Yes, another educrat acronym. And like so many bills that come out of the Georgia Legislature, this one’s impact is suspect.
The most immediate impact of HB244 will be to provide job security for assistant principals. A lot of parents wonder why schools now need so many assistant principals. Years ago, one principal and his secretary could run an entire school.
To a large extent, assistant principals have been added to handle state-mandated bureaucratic paperwork that one principal could never do. The new TKES system is a case in point.
Under TKES, every teacher must receive a minimum of two 30-minute observations and four 10-minute walk through observations. Somebody has to do that and no one principal could possibly do that many observations of all his teachers. Hence the job security for assistant principals.
During those observations, teachers are to be evaluated on a list of 10 points. Among those points are: Professional knowledge; instructional strategies; positive learning environment; and communication.
Can you imagine the pile of additional paperwork the TKES system is going to generate? Those observations and their ratings will be combined with student performance to give teachers a final rating. Teachers who don’t rate high enough will be reported to the state Professional Standards Commission.
The really sad thing is that all of this effort and additional paperwork won’t make any difference for students by rooting out underperforming teachers. In addition to keeping assistant principals busy, it will only ensure more legal work for lawyers who represent teachers who don’t like their ratings.
The reality is, principals already know who their good and bad teachers are. Most students know which teachers in a school are good and which are not. Outstanding teachers stand out. Bad teachers stand out, too.
The problem is, getting rid of bad teachers is a school management nightmare. Job security in the form of tenure protects bad teachers. Most school systems want to avoid protracted and expensive litigation, so they shy away from firing teachers unless there is a really terrible situation. Most of the time if a system wants to get rid of a teacher, they move him or her around and subtly pressure the teacher to resign. Teachers seldom ever get fired for academic underperformance. Adding a new, more cumbersome way to evaluate teachers isn’t going to change any of that.
What really needs to happen is for school systems to give more power to principals and for the state to allow systems to get rid of bad teachers without having to jump through so many hoops.
Some Barrow County public officials are under the mistaken impression that it’s illegal for them to discuss what happens behind closed doors when a government agency goes into “executive session.”
But there is no such law. It’s perfectly legal for a public official to blab about what was done or said in a closed meeting. Any law that would seek to make speech illegal would be ruled unconstitutional.
That doesn’t mean it’s always smart for a public official to let others know what was discussed behind closed doors. Sometimes, personal employee problems might get vetted and it may not be wise to share such information outside of that room.
But it’s not illegal.
Apparently, state lobby groups for local governments have been spreading the word that public officials shouldn’t discuss what’s said in secret meetings. That has apparently intimidated some local officials into thinking they might go to jail if they blab.
It’s not true. Every agency needs whistleblowers to keep their peers honest. Secrecy in government should be very, very limited — it is, after all, the public’s business they’re doing.
No public official is going to jail for talking too much. If that were the case, our jails would be full of politicians.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.