Principals need to get serious about evaluating teachers, writes Justin Baeder in On Performance. Many principals rate all teachers as satisfactory, convinced that it doesn’t matter: Teachers can’t be fired for teaching poorly. Insteady, principals try make undesired teachers so miserable they’ll want to quit.
Baeder cites an op-ed by Colin Hitt of the Illinois Public Policy Institute, who quotes Dr. Timothy Knowles of the University of Chicago:
In interviews with 40 principals, 37 admitted to using some type of harassing supervision—cajoling, pressuring or threatening—to get teachers to leave in order to circumvent the byzantine removal process mandated by the union contract… This pathological status quo feeds upon itself: The more difficult it is for principals to address underperformance, the more likely they are to use informal methods to do so. This fuels labor’s argument that management is capricious, strengthening their case for increased employment protection.
Principals must break this cycle “by conducting meaningful evaluations, even if it takes a few years for policymakers to create a stronger link between evaluations and dismissal,” writes Baeder.
If Chicago Public Schools principals turned in five hundred or a thousand unsatisfactory ratings next year instead of just a handful, what kind of attention would that garner? Imagine if lawmakers could see the litigation costs districts face in dismissal proceedings—would they not immediately intervene? Right now, though, all they see is a giant stack of “satisfactory” ratings, with no way to tell which teachers deserve them and which don’t.
Teacher evaluation reforms are being designed to work around principals by using value-added analyses of test scores rather than relying on principals’ judgment, Baeder warns. Principals need to start doing their jobs as teacher evaluators or they’ll be out of the job.