Monday, January 25, 2010

Teacher evaluations

The speech by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, giving the union okay to teacher evaluations based on student test performance may have given Illinois governor Pat Quinn the political cover to sign the "Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010" on January 15. The bill "requires every school district to incorporate student performance as a significant factor in teacher and principal evaluations" according to the governor's press release.

The bill is an example of the extortions demanded by the Obama/Duncan administration from cash-strapped states and school districts to qualify for "Race to the Top" funds ("Dangling Money, Obama Pushes Education Shift"; "State Looks at Doubling Cap on Charter Schools"). There have been some brave "just say no"s from some states and districts. See e.g. "Texas Shuts Door on Millions in Education Grants", "In Race for U.S. School Grants Is a Fear of Winning").

An article in the Atlantic Monthly this month, "What Makes a Great Teacher?", praising the Teach for America alternative certification program, also gives a nod to teacher evaluations based on student performance (referring to the District of Columbia, which begins a new evaluation system where half of a teacher's performance "score" is based on student standardized test performance).

On a related note, someone passed along a link to a 2008 article from The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, "Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job?". I hope to dig into the reasoning in the article real soon now. The article is especially interesting because it references some of the (academic) economic research behind the push for teacher evaluations based on student test performance.


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