Louisiana public school teachers improve in job reviews, but superintendent of education notices issue with evaluations _lowres

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- State Superintendent of Education John White

Well, they are at it again. Our education leaders are creating another teacher evaluation plan.

For years, our leaders have praised every new teacher training and evaluation program as the latest and greatest. Yet, we continue to rate near the bottom of state education systems. Why is that? It seems obvious things are not good. Don’t our leaders know that for many decades, study after study has shown, without question, the most important factor in student learning is the teacher’s subject matter knowledge? Makes sense, doesn’t it? How can anyone teach a subject well if they haven’t mastered the subject?

Teachers must pass a subject matter test when first certified right out of college. But, even though a teacher’s classroom teaching skills are evaluated every year, a teacher never has to take a subject knowledge test after that initial certification test. We have science teachers who haven’t had their subject knowledge tested in 20 years. Do you think science has changed in 20 years? Do you think some teachers have fewer subject skills now than when they graduated from college? Even math has changed in 20 years. Obviously, our leaders don’t think this is a problem. If you have an employee with no increase in job knowledge after 10, 20 or 30 years, would you continue to employ that person? Maybe you would if the job never changed. But, most occupations change constantly. We have to keep up, certainly in education.

The quality of every education system is determined by the quality of its teachers, not high-tech teaching devices, not beautiful facilities, and not the latest “innovative” programs. You can put a good teacher in a tent and quality education will take place, because a good teacher is compelled to provide good education, no matter what. (Remember T buildings?) For too long, we have suffered the reasoning that our education system is near the bottom, because our teachers need more classroom teaching skills, and we don’t spend enough money on “stuff.”

Currently, teacher “in-service” training mainly addresses creating lesson plans and classroom presentations. But, before we implement new teaching skills training, why don’t we first create programs that ensure every teacher is proficient in their teaching subject, not just competent at their students’ level. After all, an educator should never stop studying their teaching subject. Then, we can provide teaching skills training and buy more “stuff.”

A subject-knowledge test should be part of every teacher evaluation plan. Why not the same subject certification test currently required of every new education graduate?

Van Anderson

public schoolteacher, retired

Baton Rouge