Publicly Shaming Teachers Won't Help Them Get Better

The New York City government recently decided to make public individual teacher performance assessments that include value-added test scores. Two leaders in the education reform movement came out against the move. Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, published an op-ed in the New York Times, and Wendy Kopp, Teach For America CEO and Founder, penned one for the Wall Street Journal.

Gates said that public shaming won't work. Ranking teachers by name won't help them improve their teaching skills or lead to better student outcomes. Instead, it will make it harder for reformers to implement better teacher evaluation systems. This is because teachers need specific feedback in order to get better. "Annual reviews are a diagnostic tool to help employees reflect on their performance, get honest feedback and create a plan for improvement," Gates wrote. Indeed, it's hard to think of any industry or business models that use public shame as a tool for improving employee performance.

Kopp argued that the move was based on "a misconception that 'fixing' teachers is the solution to all that ails our education system." Teachers are certainly an important factor, but many other factors affect student outcomes. Kopp added that it is incredibly difficult for teachers who work hard and try to connect to students to thrive in a system that does not provide them with the necessary support. Making these evaluations public undermines the trust that school teams need to succeed and thrive.

Additionally, publicly shaming teachers makes the teaching profession less attractive for talented young people to enter. Teachers generally want to improve and benefit from feedback from their peers and administrators. They do not benefit from public shame and embarrassment — particularly those who are working hard to succeed and improve in a profession that involves a great deal of public scrutiny. Evaluations should function as tools that administrators use to help teachers improve their practice.

Weigh in: Should teachers' evaluations be made publicly available?

Note: Andrew Hanson is a Teach For America alumnus and works for an organization that is partially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Andrew Hanson

Research Analyst @ Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Interested in issues related to education and inequality. Teach For America alumnus. Studied philosophy as an undergrad; interested in political philosophy and philosophy of science.

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