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Educational power, micromanaged style

Children come to school with vast differences in preparation and support at home. Teachers unions are right; grading teachers solely on how their students do would not be fair.

That said, the state's new method for evaluating teachers seems spectacularly flaccid.

As the Daily Mail's Shay Maunz reported, it's aimed at giving teachers "feedback" on how they're doing, helping students by helping their teachers get better.

Principals are to drive the process, observing and meeting with teachers and looking at data and standardized test scores to gauge achievement, and by extension, teachers' effectiveness.

Emily Papadopoulous, director of professional programs at the West Virginia Center for Professional Development, told Maunz the process emphasizes "courageous conversations" and helping principals understand that teachers need positive feedback as badly as students do.

Principal Pam Gould of Watts Elementary said the new teacher evaluation system "forces collaboration."

It sounds vaguely good. But the devil is in the details on the chart:

* 5 percent of the evaluation system is based on "school-wide" progress in reading and math.

* 15 percent is based on progress (unspecified) toward two student learning goals.

* 80 percent is "self-reflection" plus "evidence," again unspecified.

Teachers will come out of this weighted, vague but highly regulated and "courageous" process rated as "unsatisfactory," "emerging," "accomplished," or "distinguished."

Or so they say.

Dixie Billheimer, chief executive officer of the Center of Professional Development, says it gives principals a way to be "the instructional leaders in the school."

That will be true only if they comply with every jot and tittle of the evaluation process, which state leaders laid out in excruciatingly minute detail after being faulted for micromanagement.

You feel sorry for principals, gaining all this power.



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