December 14, 2009
A lot has been written over the last year about how best to evaluate teachers. In DC, Chancellor Rhee is embarked on an ambitious new program and even charter schools are taking a new look at how they assess teacher effectiveness. What is notable is the fact that the special education community has not been more vocal on the subject since our students have the most to gain or lose from the implementation of these new frameworks.
Done correctly, improved teacher evaluations could change the climate in the general education classroom and greatly facilitate inclusion. Correctly identifying teacher strengths and weaknesses can allow administrators to focus in on those weaknesses and provide targeted support to those needing it. Stronger, well-rounded teachers, in turn, will make for classrooms with better differentiation and increase the learning of all students, including those with special needs.
Done poorly, new teacher evaluations could lead to increased stress on classroom teachers and hurt those who need the most help. Too great a focus on student test scores, rather than student progress and teacher performance, or a lack of professional development to go along with evaluations, could lead to an even greater reluctance on the part of teachers to have students with special needs in their classrooms.
Special education teachers need to play an active role in shaping these new frameworks. Without our voices, the students who stand to gain the most from improved teacher performance will suffer.