Last Thursday’s commentary by Tom Kane in the Brookings Institute education blog is an interesting new argument around teacher evaluation. He suggests that the modal first-year/novice teacher performance is the proper criterion for giving teachers permanent employment status (he uses the word tenure inappropriately here). As a hypothetical, Kane’s column moves us away from an algorithmic approach (I hope!) and towards a realistic question that are on most sane principals’ minds anyway: if I recommended dismissal of this teacher, am I likely to get someone better instead?
This reality-based question is not a formula that converts value-added measures, scores on Danielson- or Marzano-lite performance rubrics, and student/parent surveys into a single number that must be used in the same way whether you are in a big city or in the rural hinterlands. For that, I welcome Kane’s comments. He adds in a bit of shadow-play from game theory — what should happen to expectations of experienced teachers when novice teachers’ performance is improving — but I’d stick with the question I think most school administrators understand and use when looking at a whole host of policies and issues regarding teacher performance: what would actually change if I denied permanent status to a teacher?