On Teacher Evaluation: Slow Down And Get It Right

One of the primary policy levers now being employed in states and districts nationwide is teacher evaluation reform. Well-designed evaluations, which should include measures that capture both teacher practice and student learning, have great potential to inform and improve the performance of teachers and, thus, students. Furthermore, most everyone agrees that the previous systems were largely pro forma, failed to provide useful feedback, and needed replacement.

The attitude among many policymakers and advocates is that we must implement these systems and begin using them rapidly for decisions about teachers, while design flaws can be fixed later. Such urgency is undoubtedly influenced by the history of slow, incremental progress in education policy. However, we believe this attitude to be imprudent.

The risks to excessive haste are likely higher than whatever opportunity costs would be incurred by proceeding more cautiously. Moving too quickly gives policymakers and educators less time to devise and test the new systems, and to become familiar with how they work and the results they provide.

Moreover, careless rushing may result in avoidable erroneous high stakes decisions about individual teachers. Such decisions are harmful to the profession, they threaten the credibility of the evaluations, and they may well promote widespread backlash (such as the recent Florida lawsuits and the growing “opt-out” movement). Making things worse, the opposition will likely “spill over” into other promising policies, such as the already-fragile effort to enact the Common Core standards and aligned assessments.

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Backlash to Education Mandates Grows, Spreads

“It’s always hard to tell for sure exactly when a revolution starts,” wrote John Tierny in The Atlantic recently. “I’m not an expert on revolutions,” he continued, “but even I can see that a new one is taking shape in American K-12 public education.”

Tierney pointed to a number of signs of the coming “revolution:”

  • Teachers refusing to give standardized tests, parents opting their kids out of tests, and students boycotting tests.
  • Legislators reconsidering testing and expressing concerns about corruption in the testing industry.
  • Voucher and other “choice” proposals being strongly contested and voted down in states that had been friendly to them.

Tierney linked to a blog post by yours truly, “The Inconvenient Truth of Education Reform,” explaining how the movement known as “education reform” has committed severe harm to the populations it professes to serve while spreading corruption and enriching businesses and political figures.

Echoing Tierney, on the pages of Slate, The Nation, and elsewhere, David Kirp, education professor and author of a popular new book casting doubt on competitive driven, market-based school reform, declared that cheating scandals and parent rebellions over high stakes standardized testing were proof that much ballyhooed reform policies championed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are not “a proven – or even a promising – way to make schools better.”

Kirp declared that mounting evidence from school reform efforts in major U.S. metropolitan areas reveals “it’s a terrible time for advocates of market-driven reform in public education. For more than a decade, their strategy – which makes teachers’ careers turn on student gains in reading and math tests, and promotes competition through charter schools and vouchers – has been the dominant policy mantra. But now the cracks are showing.”

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Chamber of Commerce risks massive backlash

Attacking your neighbors, friends and family is hard, attacking your customers is just plain dumb

Tea party members are squarely in its corner, and it's widely assumed that conservative corporate entities from inside and outside Ohio will pony up at the appropriate time.

But will the real leader of the pro-Senate Bill 5 movement please stand up?

Those opposed to Senate Bill 5 - the new law that limits collective bargaining for Ohio's public employees - have a political action committee, are gathering signatures and are identifying multimillion-dollar revenue streams to fund a referendum campaign this fall.
Kasich has said he will campaign in favor of the bill, and he used a campaign fundraising email last week to talk about his support of the bill. But he and his staff are deflecting questions about who will lead Senate Bill 5's defense.

Tea party officials and business people say they simply don't know, and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine said preliminary discussions to answer some of these questions are under way.

Many businesses simply do not support S.B.5, and those that do may find themselves on the wrong end of a public relations backlash. Hundreds of thousands of people adversely affected by this extreme legislation are also their customers and neighbors. We see this playing out in microcosm in Youngstown

Three more companies have left the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber as a result of the chamber board’s endorsement of Senate Bill 5

As OhioDaily notes

What will it take for this Chamber to realize that they ought to be helping to strengthen businesses in this challenged area and not endorsing partisan bills that weaken its workforce?

Local businesses that threaten their customers are going to come under intense scrutiny, and for what gain?