Teacher Evaluation to Enhance Professional Practice

By Charlotte Danielson; Thomas L. McGreal | Go to book overview

2
The Once and Present Context for Important Lessons
In developing or redesigning local teacher evaluation systems, we must eventually answer two questions:
What do we believe good teaching looks like?
What are the processes and procedures that will best fit what we want our system to accomplish?

Neither question is new. Both have dominated the literature and the conversation about the evaluation of teaching and teachers since the beginning of the 20th century As discussed in Chapter 1, teacher evaluation has had a checkered past. The good news is that over the past 30 years, educators and researchers have learned more about teaching and about how to effectively assess and enhance it. In this book, we address how a district's local teacher evaluation committee answers these questions and how it justifies its decisions; and we explore these questions in multifaceted ways and discuss many important lessons we have learned.


Shortcomings and Limiting Conditions

Chapter 1 discusses shortcomings that characterize traditional evaluation practices. Among them are (1) outdated, limited evaluative criteria and (2) the lack of shared values and assumptions about what constitutes good teaching. Both conditions create hurdles for local districts in the successful development of contemporary, effective teacher evaluation.

These shortcomings are often the result of two common conditions within local schools. First, school staff lack the time, training, and inclination to become knowledgeable about the best evidence emerging from the research on teaching. Second, despite this emerging evidence, school staff show a strong tendency “to pretend not to know what we know.” It is easier to stick with what teachers have always done and believed, rather than go through the often painful process of changing current thinking about teaching—the way teachers practice it and the way people evaluate it.

The first of these conditions is legitimate. Because of the extraordinary demands on their

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