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Follow-Up: What Is Possible?

Michael Moran
While the innovative suggestions for improving teacher evaluations put forth by my fellow bloggers have pushed my thinking in new directions, I am still left unsure about their political feasibility. History tells us that transforming such ideas into federal or state policy has always been a challenge. Even in rare cases when a teacher evaluation plan that makes sense is developed, it tanks during the implementation phase.

Furthermore (as if all of this wasn't already difficult enough), massive cuts to state education budgets across the country make implementing relevant, contextual, and fair teacher evaluations harder than ever. In a climate where states are seeing millions of dollars in funding disappear from K-12 budgets and many important programs perish under the tracks of the relentless freight train that is the economic recession, how can we reconcile the need for enhanced and meaningful teacher evaluations with a mandate to use an out-of-touch, ineffective evaluator severely strapped for cash?

I hear an awful lot about Finland's education system these days (or as I like to call it, Marcia Brady) and how the United States (Jan Brady) can replicate some of its successes. Despite the obnoxious comparisons and incessant news coverage, I'm a fan of Finland's education model, especially its inclusion of the "human factor" in teacher evaluations. I also find the argument that Finland's ethnic homogeneity allows their education system to work in ways the US's diverse population could not realistically adopt to be deplorable. However, there are so many key components to making the machine work that are neither politically nor fiscally possible for the United States to replicate in our current economic situation.

So then, what is actually possible in the former land of "anything is possible"? As is often the case with any meaty discussion, I am left with more questions than answers; however, I am more empowered with the knowledge that continuing to ask these questions can lead to the development of a teacher evaluation model that is fair, effective, and sustainable. I wish that those actually developing these evaluative models thought in the same way.

Michael Moran is a former 6th grade teacher currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs.

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