The war against widgets: Using evaluation data to inform hiring and placement of teachers

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Just over four years ago, The Widget Effect was published, calling out teacher evaluation and dismissal policies that treat teachers as if we are interchangeable. The report made suggestions, like moving away from binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory evaluation systems, which now seem like the norm. But one of their other suggestions -- that effectiveness ratings be used to make more intentional human capital decisions -- is still a rarity in the field.

Imagine a system where highly effective teachers are seen as more desirable hires, have their choice of jobs and the opportunity to negotiate a competitive salary. With a chance to find the right school fit and receive compensation worthy of their talent I think we'd find these teachers to be much more likely to stay in the classroom, where our kids need them. My experience teaching in a charter school affirms this potential.

I began teaching in South Central, Los Angeles. I was open to a job in a traditional school, but was offered a teaching position at an Alliance charter first. I came in just as a new evaluation system (The College-Ready Promise, or TCRP) was being rolled out. 

I loved LA, but after a couple years I felt it was time for me to return to my own community of Oakland. How could I demonstrate to my new district or school that I was an effective teacher? Would I have to start all over again in my new city? At Alliance, two years of demonstrated effectiveness had already made me eligible for a performance bonus. Would I have to start all over again?

As it happens, an Aspire charter school in Oakland that also uses TCRP offered me a position. I had not only gained professionally from the evaluation itself, but I also had a portable mark of excellence, my evaluation scorecard, that helped me move and find another job. Further, my transparent ratings meant that my work towards professional goals, PD, and the performance incentives could continue without a break.

Now, just think how great it would be if all effective teachers knew that they wouldn't be seen as just another widget. What if every district and charter organization made use of evaluation data in hiring and course placement?