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Grading teachers for quality

Perhaps teachers have always been assessed and evaluated. Perhaps they've always known that they, too, not just their pupils, have had a yearly report to justify.

But today, at all levels of teaching, there seems to be a floodtide of interest in determining just how well or how poorly not only individual teachers do their jobs, but how the institutions they serve do theirs.

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The Monitor's Hugh David Smith contacted some 20 state departments of education to find out how many were requiring the testing of teachers (about half), how many expected each local school district to carry out annual evaluations of every teacher (again about half), and how many were applying state standards to local school districts (three, or possibly four). He was also to find out if there was some common pattern in the grading process across states or school districts - there wasn't.

Staff writer Susan Garland contacted Colby College, The Citadel, and Wheaton, Randolph-Macon, Pomona, Howard, and Colgate Universities, as well as the Universities of Minnesota, Miami, Texas, and Washington.

She found the grading of instructors and professors to be tied primarily to tenure and full professorships, but teaching, per se, often the least important of the graded characteristics. Instead, scholarly work, professional associations, research, reputation outside the institution, and community service apparently received more scrutiny than classroom teaching. This was not true for all the schools she contacted, but she felt that most expressed their evaluation programs in these terms.

The Monitor's Scott Thompson discovered Florescent Valley Community College in Missouri and discovered it has just begun a four-step evaluation program to which all members of the faculty are subjected yearly.

The teachers must rate themselves, indicating how they have improved since the last evaluation; student evaluations are put on the computer and teachers are given composite averages. There are to be classroom visitations (generally by the department head), and each member of the faculty must complete some community service - and this may include the writing of a book.

At one small Southern university (''Please don't mention the name.'') the four steps include self-evaluation by each member of the faculty, student evaluation on a form provided by the school, evaluation by the dean of the college in a discussion format, and here's the twist - an evaluation done by the faculty of their dean and president.

At the elementary and secondary levels, the pressure is even greater than in higher education; that is, the pressure for objective (at least as objective as possible) evaluation of how well each teacher teaches.

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A great deal of this testing of teachers is tied to wise expenditure for in-service classes, but there is a growing trend toward compiling negative feedback so that teachers who don't measure up can actually be taken out of the classroom.

Without very thorough documentation of inadequate teaching, few state laws will allow public schools to dismiss ''at will'' whichever teachers they want to.

But the situation varies not only from school district to school district, but even from school to school.

One thing all reporters asked to help with this material agreed upon - there will be more, not less, grading of teachers at every level in the 1980s than in the 1970s.


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