Common Core Teacher Evaluations: Ensuring Conformity in Every Classroom

To what extent are teachers responsible for students' success or failure?  The creators of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) seemingly want us to accept the premise that a student's and a teacher’s “success” can and should be determined by one test.  And the creators of CCSS want us to believe that teachers are largely responsible for how their students “perform” on that one test.

Teacher evaluation systems are not a part of Common Core, but they are fully intertwined with them.  States agreed to these “accountability measures” in the form of evaluations for students and teachers in exchange for federal dollars through the Obama administration’s “Race To The Top” program.  While America was busy watching Dancing with the Stars, the creators of CCSS were making sure that these standards were even further entrenched by tying student outcomes on CCSS state exams to teacher evaluations.  Under CCSS, teachers whose students do not achieve “success” on the CCSS annual exam are labeled “ineffective.”

The term “ineffective” implies that one is not getting the desired result.  But what is the desired result under Common Core?

Under Common Core, teachers are under much pressure to train their students to pass the Common Core State exams.  Classroom observations, the old and probably best way to measure teacher effectiveness, account for approximately 60% of a teacher’s annual rating (depending on the state).  While some of this 60% is based on agenda-driven criteria such as whether the teacher “provide[s] a classroom that embraces other cultures” (a topic for another day), at least the teacher knows what to expect and how to prepare.  With slight variations by state, the other 40% of a teacher’s rating is based on student performance.  Teachers who receive “highly effective” on classroom observations could receive an overall rating of “developing” or “ineffective” based on poor student performance.  Two years of an “ineffective” rating can be grounds for termination.  This creates a high-stakes testing environment for teachers and students, with many possible scenarios that would have an effect well outside putting the children first.  While most teachers become teachers because they do care about children and want them to be successful, what is a teacher to do when student test results can make or break his or her rating?

Teachers will conform.  Teachers are asked by the unions, by their administrators, and by the creators of Common Core to present to the students the Common Core compliant materials, textbooks, practice exams, and modules.  If they do this, they are promised that their students will have a very good chance of being successful on the exams.  Textbooks are “aligned to the Common Core.”  The loss of teacher creativity is a concern, but teachers feel they have no choice but to follow the script.

It gets better, and by better I mean much worse.  As an added bonus, and one not to be questioned, much of these Common Core-aligned textbooks and materials tout revisionist history, questionable science, and moral relativism.  While some teachers may flinch, most have seemed to accept this conversion.  Like everything else nowadays, it seems that the more this government does to us, the less people seem to believe that government is doing anything.  As planned, the system produces cognitive dissonance, denial, and acquiescence (Big Brother's goals as well).

Are we at a place where teachers must teach the right concepts so students can prove on high-stakes exams that teachers have taught them what the creators of CCSS have deemed a proper education?  Under CCSS, are we very far from a place where the whole country is using the same exact books and listening to a teacher read the same exact script?  Common Core even tells teachers to plan their lessons minute by minute.  Imagine.  Across the entire United States of America, at the exact same time, classes reading the same exact books, hearing the same exact lines from their teachers, and being asked and expected to answer the same exact questions in the same exact way.  Creepy.

Sadly, the current environment is one where a culture of silence exists, where teachers and administrators are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.  No doubt some of those educators wholeheartedly support CCSS because they believe that it is best for the children.  Some of us disagree, though, and question the endgame.

After reflecting on my own evaluation process, it seemed that this is about control – control over how and what a teacher teaches.  Is the teacher evaluation system under CCSS designed to weed out the teachers who do not produce the desired results?  Yes, it is.  We can all agree on that.

The author has a B.A. from New York University and an M.S. in elementary education.  She is a parent and public-school teacher who wants the best for her children and her students.  Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others in the education field.  Please follow her on Twitter @maryannemercog.

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