Avoiding the storm

In the 1980s I spent my summers on Unimak Island living at a fish camp as a part of a commercial fishing operation. During this time I learned to read the water and the weather and by the end of the decade had a pretty good grasp for when we would have good fishing and when a storm was coming. I wish I could say the same about my ability to read the winds of education. After 23 years of doing this, you would think that I would have a better feel for what is next for our schools.

I spent yesterday working with the state level Advisory Committee for Educator Evaluation. Our time was mostly focused on how to measure student learning, a soon to be required part of a teacher’s evaluation. While certain sources of learning data e.g., scores on standardized tests, are easy to apply to an evaluation, most others are fraught with what if questions including whether it is even valid to make the intended connection. As is the case with many changes in education, our changes to the teacher evaluation regulations are a bit like the famous line from a movie, build it and they will come. Unfortunately, such an approach lends itself to speculation of what the details will be and for those like us who are trying to get ahead of the game by creating our own details, frustration. The move to change the evaluation system was driven by the national conversation concerning teacher accountability. While it is fair for this conversation to help shape policy, it is a mistake to create too tight of a timeline to implement the changes. The winds of change leading to a storm need to be recognized well before the water is choppy.

— Dr. Steve Atwater, April 28, 2013


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