State’s teacher policies ranked last in nation
A study singles out the lack of annual evaluations as one particular problem
The state should require annual formal reviews of all teachers rather than letting some go as long as five years without one, a national study released today said.
The National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Hawaii as "Last in Class" in this year's report on teacher-related policies, saying it lags behind most others in implementing these procedures.
The study is meant to highlight the state-to-state differences in how teachers are evaluated, prepared, licensed and compensated -- all factors affecting teaching quality.
According to Hawaii's policies, new teachers are evaluated every semester for their first two years and "marginal" -- or negatively reviewed -- teachers are supposed to undergo annual evaluations. Satisfactory, tenured teachers go through formal reviews every five years.
Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, says infrequent reviews are unwise. "Evaluations are important. These are employees that are working with our children," he said.
Joan Husted, executive director of Hawaii State Teachers Association, agreed with the study's suggestion, but said many principals don't have time to review every teacher annually.
"In a perfect world, every teacher should have formal evaluations every year," she said. "Given the span of supervision by most school administrators, what happens is teachers don't get evaluated at all."
Only principals and vice principals are allowed by law to give formal evaluations, and they are stretched too thin when they have to review not only teachers, but counselors, custodial staff and aides, she said.
"When I handled the field staff, I had 12 people to evaluate," Husted said. "To do a good job, you really need to spend quality time. I can't imagine a principal who has 20, 30, 40 teachers to evaluate to find that time."
Husted said she believes there should be less money spent on administration staff and more on supervisory positions, such as more vice principals, to help improve teacher quality.
Other study suggestions for Hawaii include:
» Establishing specific coursework requirements for elementary teachers that are more pertinent to their classroom curriculum, rather than letting them pick classes under ambiguous subjects such as "English" or "history" that may not be useful. The report said the state has good policies for preparing secondary teachers.
» Providing a genuine alternate route for a teacher certification. The state should offer programs that don't require excessive coursework and should provide adequate support for new teachers in order to recruit those with diverse backgrounds.
» Better preparing teachers who work with students with disabilities. The state should adopt standards that would clearly address the skills and knowledge needed for a special education teacher, but should not make them so excessive that they discourage potential teachers.
Star-Bulletin reporter Laurie Au and the Associated Press contributed to this report.