I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Teacher Evaluations: A Race To Nowhere

New York is rushing to change teacher evaluation, even if they're not ready for it:

An important deadline in the state’s ongoing teacher evaluation process occurs Sunday, but most schools will be missing it.  

July 1 was set as the day for schools around the state to submit plans for their new teacher evaluations to the State Education Department. The evaluations are required in order to qualify for federal grant money that New York State won under the Race to the Top program.
But only around 65 of the states more than 700 school districts will be ready, says New York State School Boards Association’s executive director Tim Kremer.
“Not going to make that deadline, for most districts,” Kremer said.
The major reason for the delay is that schools were waiting for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to finalize a plan to limit disclosure of teacher evaluations to the public. On June 21, the last day of the legislative session, they agreed on legislation to keep the results private, except to parents who actually have a child in the teacher’s class. Teachers and administrators were hesitant to work on deals on evaluation plans until then.
The School Boards Association backed Cuomo’s bill,  Kremer said, largely because there are too many unknowns in the unfinished teacher evaluation process to expose the very first results to wide public scrutiny.
“We’re not quite ready for primetime,” said Kremer, who said it’s a “work in progress.” [emphasis mine]
Connecticut is rushing as well:
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said during Wednesday's day-long meeting at the state Capitol complex that while he is "proud" that the state has made it to this point, "profound disagreements" and questions remain among key stakeholders.
Some of those questions include whether these evaluations will actually improve education. What happens when there's a dispute in how much weight to give standardized tests in a teacher's grade? And, finally, who will pay for all these new requirements?
"We don't have enough administrative personnel to carry this out [statewide]. We are going to be laying off teachers to carry out these evaluations," said Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the state's superintendents association, who is supportive of these new evaluations but cited cost concerns after the meeting of the panel that forwarded these recommended guidelines to the state board.
The state has arranged for the University of Connecticut's Center for Education Policy Analysis to evaluate the pilot program.
Casey D. Cobb, the director of UConn's center, said his team intends to report on the rollout of the evaluations, but not whether the system is improving student outcomes.
"The pilot could be a spot-on system for evaluating teachers. Most likely it's not and will need to be fine-tuned. That's where we come in," Cobb said. "A validity study cannot be done in a year. That's a much longer study." [emphasis mine]
New Jersey rushed to change evaluations, until they realized they wouldn't have time to evaluate their "pilot" program before the final program was rolled out. But they're still rolling out a new system based on growth measures that are completely inappropriate to the task.

You would think everyone would want to review the evidence before rushing to implement schemes that haven't been shown to work. But when folks like Michelle Rhee control the debate - a woman who crows about her changes to the Washington DC evaluation system when they had no discernible effect on student learning - politicians must feel they have to follow her lead. They need to urgently do something - anything! - to prove how much they care about kids.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think running around like a chicken with your head cut off does a lot for students.

"We may be lost, but we're making great time!"

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