I am writing in regard to the (Associated Press) article discussing a new teacher evaluation system in New Mexico. If the article is accurate, the system needs to be reconsidered for the simple fact that the evaluation of anyone is not an isolated activity but rather part of a process.
Evaluation is a means of helping the individual improve and so the evaluator must know the situation of the subject prior to evaluation and must also be able to help set goals for the evaluated individual to work toward. However, the proposed system relies either upon an outside evaluator, who knows nothing about the teacher, students or situation, or upon already harried fellow teachers who must invade the privacy of their cohorts in order to accomplish the evaluation and then be willing to continue close contact over the rest of the year.
The school principal is not only the administrative head of the operation but is, in a very real sense, the sergeant of the unit. A good principal knows the individual teachers, both personally and professionally. She or he knows the students in the classroom and the challenges of teaching in that particular school. Not only that, but the principal is the only person to take a long view of the school. That is, the principal sees not only the current situation but also the many possibilities in the future. Thus, the principal is the only logical person to work with the teachers to improve professionally.
The primary reason I can think of for promoting this new evaluation system is to further denigrate the professional teachers of New Mexico. The current state administration apparently believes teacher evaluation can be reduced to the completion of a check list which Education Secretary Skandera seems to think can be done by almost anyone. Perhaps governmental officials can be thus evaluated but not true professionals.