May 13, 2011

The Power Of High-Quality Teacher Evaluations

Sharra Weasler is a mother of two and leads the StudentsFirst Internet communications efforts. Prior to StudentsFirst, she worked with Fight For Children – a non-profit in D.C. focused on improving life outcomes for D.C. kids. In California, Sharra taught high school science in the public school system and managed education-focused websites for Silicon Valley companies. Sharra received her BA, MA and teaching credential from Stanford University.
My name is Sharra Weasler. At StudentsFirst, it is my responsibility to connect online with our members and others interested in transforming our nation's education system. The Internet provides us with an exciting and powerful medium by which to truly create a national movement to disrupt the status quo and insist on real education reform.
Education has always been my passion. I began my career as a high school public school science teacher after going through a traditional credentialing program. I loved teaching. I come from a long line of educators and have always believed that there is no greater contribution to society than educating our country's youth. Our public education system is core to both our society's values of equal opportunity for all and the strength of our nation's future economy. Because of this, teachers are one of our country’s most valuable assets.
As a teacher, I was also very frustrated with several aspects of the profession. Most salient to me was the lack of meaningful feedback about how I was doing. I felt I had no barometer by which to measure the impact I was having on students. While I worked with a collaborative team who shared lesson plans and ideas, there was no time or process for peer evaluation or mentoring to help me identify areas in which I could improve. And I got no satisfaction from my glowing evaluation written by my Vice Principal who said she had finally understood refraction after observing my class.
After leaving teaching for personal circumstances, I spent the next several years thinking about how our public education system could do a better job evaluating teachers so that teachers could take pride in knowing when they excel and the positive impact they have on student learning. They also need to be able to better recognize their weaknesses and receive support and training to improve. I believe that recognition and professional growth are key to recruiting and retaining excellent teachers, and I believe excellent teachers are the key to the success of students.
Working for a non-profit in D.C., Fight for Children, I learned about the teacher evaluation system that Michelle Rhee had implemented in D.C. Public Schools. This epitomized what I had envisioned over the years: A comprehensive and clearly described set of universal best practices that all teachers could strive to achieve; the opportunity to be evaluated by a Master teacher in your subject area who could work with you over the course of the year to help you improve; and the use of math and reading test scores so that teachers could get credit and be held accountable for the student achievement growth they produced in their classes in these basic and critical skills. Then there was the opportunity for the most excellent educators to earn a triple digit salary -- this was unheard of!
I joined StudentsFirst because I believe that our public education system is the key to equal opportunity and national economic prosperity and that teachers are the key to an excellent public education system. I believe that fair, consistent and comprehensive evaluation systems coupled with good professional development and rewards for excellence are crucial to improving the quality of our current teaching force and recruiting the best teachers for the future.
I'm excited to be able to connect with our members and followers online to hear your stories and perspectives, to work with you to change the status quo to make sure we do what's best for students, and to report to you about our activities and successes. The internet makes it so easy for all of us to spread the word to our friends and family about the urgency of transforming public education and the common sense solutions that we must fight for right now to make sure that students are the focus of the education debate.
StudentsFirst is a national movement. It is you, the movement, who will be key to transformative change. You are the voice defending students. If you're not already doing so, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up on our website so we can communicate with you via email. And help us use this powerful medium, the Internet, to grow our movement so that we have the required strength to overturn the status quo.

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