Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly takes a detour from politics into a very interesting discussion about teacher evaluation. The trigger was a posting on another site that wonders how you would figure out who is a good teacher and who’s not. Kevin only has the direct experience of being judged in a corporate environment (and a mother who’s a teacher) to work from.

… so how do you get evaluated? Well, I said, once a year my boss calls me in, tells me what kind of job he thinks I’m doing, rates me in some way, and then tells me how big a raise I’ll be getting.

Except for the big raise, that doesn’t sound too much different than the way I was always evaluated. And I’d bet it’s similar to most teachers.

There is one point in the discussion, however, where Kevin’s lack of knowledge of schools and the classroom shows.

A big difference between most white collar private sector jobs and classroom teaching is that, to a very large degree, every teacher does the same thing: they teach a single class (or in high school, a certain number of periods). Thus, differential pay is extremely obvious.

Teachers may teach the same subject or subjects but we all know there are many factors that make each classroom (or at least each school) very different. These factors, the "degree of difficulty" if you will, are what should drive the discussion of pay differentials for teachers. We need to get away from the strict pay for seniority model that is embedded in most school systems and look at what people do and how well they do it.