Dr. Hans Andrews is the Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership for Olney Central College, Illinois. He helped start the first ‘dual-credit’ program between secondary schools and community colleges in the U.S. Hans’ publications include articles in Australia, India, China, seven books on topics of accountable teacher evaluation, recognition for outstanding teachers and dual-credit. He is formers President of Olney Central College.
A teacher’s Bill of Rights appears to be needed at this most important time. The many experiences of this author will help guide the key issues and outcomes to be highlighted in this article. These experiences include secondary school teacher and counselor, teacher union leader, a community college instruction leader, adjunct university faculty member and as a community college president and a state, national and international speaker on these topics.
The ‘High Stakes Testing (HST)’ and ‘Merit Pay’ movement over the past decade has brought to the surface issues that should not have developed (Andrews, 2021). Several of them are outlined here:
- Evaluating teachers by the ‘scores’ their students receive on these state and national exams
- Deciding on retention or dismissal of teachers based on these tests and not on their actual classroom teaching expertise
- Rewarding teachers with a ‘merit pay’ system that had failed everywhere it was implemented over the previous 50+ years
- Merit pay being granted to those teachers who may have been able to ‘recruit’ top students to their classes for the purpose of improving the test scores for those teachers’ students
Watching these things develop over the last decade has brought to mind so many of the things that teachers should expect but were pushed aside. With this in mind the following expectations should become guidelines toward a Teacher Bill of Rights for teachers everywhere:
A Bill of Rights
Teacher expectations of ‘evaluators’
Competent evaluators should be expected and used in all evaluations of teachers.
- Evaluators should have been excellent classroom teachers themselves.
- Evaluators need to be able to accept a wide range of teaching processes they observe.
- Evaluators and teachers should both have a clear understanding of the evaluation processes to be utilized.
- The instruments to be used will have been reviewed and understood by teachers so they will know the expectations of evaluation and can offer improvement suggestions.
- Consistency in evaluation should be expected teachers and practiced by evaluators.
- Fairness needs to be expected and will allow for teachers to express disagreement where there are questionable evaluation comments or observations recorded.
- Disagreements should be expressed both orally and in writing if necessary.
- Feedback from the evaluator should be made in a reasonably short time to help relieve the anxiety of those evaluated.
- Feedback should be both verbal and written and allow for discourse from both evaluator and teacher.
- Positive ‘recognition’ should be expressed both orally and in writing for excellent teachers.
If there are areas suggested for ‘remedial’ work to be done there should be a timeframe announced so the teacher has an expectation of what to work on, receive assistance, and have follow-up evaluations to chart progress.
A teacher bill or rights as outlined here should be looked at as ‘guidelines’ in developing or in improving a professional evaluation system. Such a well designed system with input from both teachers and administrators can build trust and support between teachers and administrative evaluators, and help make it a positive experience for both teacher and evaluator.
The whole process of evaluation after tenure or long-term hiring has been awarded was well stated by the National Commission of Higher Education Issues (1982):
- It should assure that the tenured faculty member continues to maintain the appropriate level of competence as when they received tenure.
- It is the responsibility of both the evaluator and teachers to follow up to see that unsatisfactory performances are remediated.
- Incompetent faculty members should not be protected at the expense of the students.
Evaluation: Formative or summative
Over the years professional researchers have tended to classify teacher evaluation as either formative or summative. The following describes what is meant by both:
Formative teacher evaluation
An evaluation conducted for the purpose of improving the teacher through identifying that teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.
Summative teacher evaluation
An evaluation conducted primarily for the purpose of making personnel decisions about the teacher e.g., special recognition, reassignment, promotion, dismissal, tenure (Teacher Evaluation Glossary, 2003).
Licata and Andrews (1990) took issue about whether evaluation has to be divided as either being formative or summative. They saw evaluation as a continuum providing formative support for teachers even during a process of remediation of teaching techniques that were identified as insufficient.
They suggested that there will sometimes be negative outcomes in most any evaluation system whether they are considered formative or summative. In their discussion on the continuum they pointed out that those who seem to have to have a dual system are not working in the same reality as those who are in the trenches of evaluation.
Most teachers respect their evaluators who continue to work with them to improve their delivery of competent instruction to their students. When asked to state some ways that their teacher evaluation could be improved the following type of responses were received:
- Utilize the results in a meaningful way to let faculty know when they are doing an excellent job and when they need help
- More feedback and awards from the system
- Reward the effective faculty members, not the slouches; there is not enough distinction now
School districts around the world have a big job ahead as they come out of the two plus years of the pandemic. Many teachers have become worn down and need a boost from the governing boards and school administrators to help them bounce back.
Working toward a ‘teacher bill of rights’ will help build positive expectations on how their teaching lives can be supported now and into the upcoming years.