School autonomy and responsibility

Teacher evaluation has been a big topic since at least the 70’s when California teacher education programs stressed performance objectives (Stull? bill). These have often placed the focus on individual teachers. Modern theorists placed the evaluation on the change in behavior of the students as that was what teachers were supposed to produce. A finding noted that one of the best predictors of student college success was the first grade teacher – and waiting 20 years to find out how good a teacher is was a bit much.

The NCLB (no child left behind act) changes things a bit as it puts the focus on individual schools. This moves to aggregate statistics which smoothes out some of the individual variations and accomodates the broader social influences in the student experience. It also puts a focus on school leadership – the principal – and joannej found another reference in the same vein.

In the Teacher Quality Bulletin, Kate Walsh looks at how to do merit pay.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of principals out there who teachers don’t trust to evaluate merit. Perhaps this model would remove the excuses and clarify who those principals are. [joannej; Let principals allocate pay; joannejacobs 27ja05]

The model is the analogy between the principal and the ship captain where each has the ultimate authority for his institution. Accountability runs in several directions. The principal would compete for teachers, staff, and students. The NCLB already leans towards providing choice for students. Choice for teachers also exists to some extent in district wide seniority in some places. For staff, it runs between an open market and a union hall.

A good accountability scheme always depends upon one person with a clear area of responsibility. There is always the chance of incompetence or fraud, especially when strong decisions can be made with few channels of oversight. A history of gross incompetence in teacher evaluations is why union contracts have fossilized the employment relationship. School districts are now severly restricted in how they can implement accountability outcomes. The NCLB is one effort to change this. A paradigm shift such as that suggested for principal autonomy might be another.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.