Evaluating America’s Teachers: Mission Possible Book Review

Evaluating America’s Teachers: Mission Possible Book Review 

Evaluating America’s Teachers: Mission Possible Book Review






Evaluating America’s Teachers: Mission Possible Book Review


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Book Review

The book Evaluating America’s Teachers: Mission Possible by James Popham addresses the weaknesses in the current teacher evaluation systems and proposes various steps that can be taken to modify and improve the evaluation techniques. Ineffective teacher evaluation approaches results to misguided decisions about the students’ learning strategies leading to negative consequences on the students. The author critiques the teacher evaluation systems and highlights the weaknesses in most of these systems and their effect on the learning outcome of the students. The author proposes alternative evaluation system that respects the professionalism of the teachers. The author also highlights that teaching is a situational occupation where every teaching circumstance is unique hence no single evaluation system can be used for all teachers. There is need to develop an evaluation system that is based on collegial judgment of the situation. This function should be carried out by experienced teachers who have been duly trained to exercise this function.

Many people especially the stakeholders and policy makers in the education sector make counter argument to the weaknesses cited by Popham in teacher evaluation systems. They argue that the teacher evaluation strategies proposed by the Race to the Top (RTT) and Duncan six point plan aim at supporting teachers and providing professional development. In his book, Popham argues that even the most well planned ideas could prove ineffectual upon implementation. He argues that the policy makers and the authors of the teacher evaluation system overlooked the effectiveness of the model in enhancing the performance of teachers and the eventual success of the learning process by the students. The evaluation system risks the government an error where the bad teachers may be identified as good ones or identifying good teachers as bad. The evaluation model contains loopholes for such errors which flaws the education system. Key error drivers by the system include poor collection of evidence which leads to misleading decisions and conclusions (Popham, 2013).

According to Popham (2013), administrators have a lot of factors to consider in order identifying the best approach to evaluate their faculty. Administrators who evaluate teachers often are likely to be influenced by bias due to comparative judgment in the performance of teachers. This usually leads to overestimating or underestimating the performance of the teachers. Popham suggests that the administrators needs to be considerate of the point of the evaluation approach and should be clear on whether to use formative or summative approach. The evaluation is likely to yield low results when both models are used simultaneously. Some of the areas where Popham agrees with the current evaluation approach is that administrators may yield better results when they focus on using formative feedback. Making summative remarks makes it difficult to provide good feedback. The administrator should have enough time to develop or adapt to the evaluation tool in order to carry out high quality teacher appraisals. The administrators also need to receive training on how to use the tool. Popham also concedes with the idea that one have to do what he can in carrying out effective evaluation strategy (Popham, 2013).

In order to have a reliable teacher appraisal model with little bias, Popham recommends the use of weighted evidence judgment. His points are however salient on administrators since they are the one whore assigned with the role of evaluating teachers. Popham categorically states that administrators should not try to human proof the appraisal. It is difficult to remove personal judgment from the process of teacher appraisal. In order to minimize the effect of personal bias on the evaluation process, administrators should be conscious of their personal judgments when conducting the appraisal. Popham thus sensitizes on his idea of developing a defensible teacher evaluation which begins with the identification of the criteria to use in the evaluation, making the criteria operational, collection of evidence and reporting the aggregate score.

In the quest of assessing the instructional ability of the teachers, Popham suggests classroom evaluations as a critical part of portfolio measurements used to appraise faculties. The author raises the concern of relying too much on standardized tests since they have been developed as comparative assessments which means that many students already have the knowledge of the content in various sets of questions. It is therefore difficult to establish the learning ability of students due to mastery of standardized tests and further the instructional ability of the tutors when these tests are the target and baseline of the evaluation. Classroom assessments should be used as an approach to measure the performance of teachers as they generate evidence that could be used in teacher-assessment programs. The classroom assessments can demonstrate to what extent a student have grown hence illuminating the efforts of the teacher (Popham, 2013).

The main weakness identified in Popham’s approach of teacher evaluation is the difficulty of separating the student’s improvement as a result of school work and the growth attributed to other factors. Some students come from backgrounds that enable them to learn and build knowledge outside the classroom through extracurricular learning experiences while others rely on classroom knowledge. It is therefore difficult to identify the extent to which the teacher has contributed to the knowledge growth of the student.




Popham, W. J. (2013). Evaluating America’s teachers: Mission possible?. Corwin Press.

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