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Ready or Not – Teacher Evaluations Are Coming

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By Bob Morrison

We have all heard the stories about how teachers need to be held accountable for student growth. I suspect most people would not disagree with this statement. Where there is plenty of debate and disagreement, though, is “how?”

For subjects like language arts and math, where there are statewide assessments to measure student performance, the task of tying student growth to teacher evaluation may be easier. Notice I said, “may.” Just because something is possible does not mean it is the proper thing to do and there is plenty of debate about tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

But here is the reality: tying teacher performance (for all teachers) to student achievement and student growth is a freight train rolling down the railroad track, and it is heading down hill. The national movement to tie teachers assessment to student outcomes will be the “new normal” for teachers across this country… including you, music and arts educators.

This leads to the logical question: “How will this be accomplished?”

And the answer the profession has right now is: “We do not know!” And this is the scariest statement of all.

Here is why: School districts across the nation are moving to tie teacher assessments to student outcomes. Many states have mandated these programs be in place as early as the 2013/2014 school year. This creates a challenge for all subjects that are in the “non-tested” category (think all arts, world languages, social studies, some sciences, physical education, and more). In essence, nearly 80 percent of teachers in the United States teach “non-tested” subjects. This does not mean it will keep the administrators from implementing something – anything – just so they may say they are doing as they are told.

So here is the rub: our profession has yet to come up with a solution to this issue and school administrators are actively seeking answers.

The hard reality we face is that either the music education field comes up with a solution or series of solutions or we will have one imposed upon us by people who have no idea about what we do in the classroom or what we are really trying to accomplish. And, in the second of those two options, I guarantee we will not like the solution. This is the scariest of thoughts.

Already in some states we have heard music teachers will be measured by student outcomes in… math! Yep, you read correctly. All that training to allow you to become the most effective teacher possible (using music as your educational tool of choice) will be reduced down to a measure of something you have no influence or control over.

This is what is at stake. So, here is what needs to happen:

  • Get over it – this issue is not going away. Ignoring it will only put our profession at greater risk.
  • Get a plan. There are plenty of districts that are trying out ideas on ways to meet the administrators’ objectives. In June, NAfME hosted a National Symposium on Music Assessment and Teacher Evaluation to tackle this very issue. Visit nafme.org or musicstandards.org.
  • Be sure to reach out to other music educators and your state music educators association to connect with those who may be tackling the same issues.
  • Use social media to find and connect with your peers who are interested in this issue. The hash tags #musiced #musedchat are great places to start.

The reality of teacher evaluation systems in music is coming fast. It will be up to all of us in the music education field to ensure that the systems being implemented will measure our teachers based on their area of expertise and student growth… music.

Robert B. Morrison is the founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, an arts education research and intelligence organization. In addition to other related pursuits in the field of arts education advocacy, Mr. Morrison has helped create, found, and run Music for All, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, and, along with Richard Dreyfuss and the late Michael Kaman, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

He may be reached directly at bobm@artsedresearch.org.

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