One Mean Evaluation

For some, it is fair to evaluate performance on the basis of distant or even unrelated factors. A chef’s personal take on macaroni succeeds only if customers buy more. Fans rejecting the team’s new uniform express power via their indirect, though crucial, point of view. Despite their distance, these factors are the end of the line in the decision making process.In these cases the target is the final say and determinant of success.

Do we fire the weather anchor whose forecasts miss the mark? He said it would rain and it didn’t. Do we fire the novice? How do we evaluate this performance?

For others, like the weather anchor, it is not fair to evaluate performance on the basis of another. In these cases the work involves highly variable factors. The weather changes constantly- is it beyond human capability to pin its behavior down? Is an attempt to do so a fool’s game or sign of vaulting hubris?

Just as firing a weather anchor on the basis of forecast accuracy is absurd, firing an educator on student performance boggles the mind. In these cases success is difficult to measure: means of evaluation are slippery when working with highly variable items or abstract concepts. Can we really predict the weather? Is a student’s learning truly measurable?

In these situations a realistic mode of evaluation must be implemented. Evaluation must occur, that is beyond debate, but a clear understanding of the inherent variables must be considered. Weather prediction involves highly variable factors; therefore, quality weather forecasting is not a game of perfection. Instead, one’s relative accuracy must be employed. Likewise, the forecaster whose predictions wildly miss the mark or historically display a high level of inaccuracy warrant deeper consideration. This is evaluation with brains, a mode of consideration that recognizes the activity being considered and pursues an evaluative tool with this in mind.

The evaluation of teachers should include details of student performance. Student growth the most important function of a teacher and any viable method of evaluation considers such growth. It is not central, though, and a teacher’s performance is far more complicated than a single point of evaluation. Limiting evaluations to this factor is insulting to the students whose complexities it disregards and the learning process as a whole.


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