The idea seems simple enough: Identify the best teachers and reward them. Pinpoint the worst and fire them.
That’s been a linchpin of the Obama administration’s education agenda from the start.
But now the administration’s initiative is in disarray, with states scaling back, slowing down and, in some cases, putting off tough decisions until Obama is out of office.
Teachers union pressure, error-riddled evaluations and a wave of more difficult tests for students have won many teachers a reprieve from the newfangled evaluations during the school year now getting underway.
Teachers have filed suit in a half-dozen states to block complicated new evaluation formulas that in some cases have rated them based on the test scores of students they never taught. Parents have protested that their children have been required to take tests created for the sole purpose of evaluating teachers. One county in Florida is developing 724 new final exams — in classes like welding and P.E.
And after spending millions to develop modern evaluation systems, many states find they’re not identifying all that many bad teachers. In Rhode Island, 95 percent of teachers were rated effective or highly effective last year. In Florida and Indiana, it was 97 percent. In Tennessee and Michigan, 98 percent.
“It would be nice if we could have some kind of objective external measure to say, ‘This is what constitutes good teaching — or good enough teaching.’ But the fact is, there’s no way the statistical measures can do that,” said Brian Gill, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research who works on so-called value-added calculations.
How much longer until it all falls apart?
Hard to say in New York, where Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is a staunch education reformer who claims teacher evaluation reform as one of his big accomplishments in his first term.
But the more these systems are revealed as error-riddled, the more the public learns that teachers are being rated on test scores for students they didn't teach or for subjects they aren't licensed in, the more teachers sue over the error-riddled ratings, the more teachers remind parents angry over testing that many of the tests their children are taking are for the sole purpose of rating teachers, the faster this evaluation reform agenda falls apart.
With NYSED and the Board of Regents in New York State now looking to make the test score component of the APPR teacher evaluation system 40% of a teacher's rating, you're going to see a lot of teachers getting rated using test scores for students they never taught or for subjects they aren't licensed in.
It behooves teachers rated "ineffective" or "developing" on that test score component to sue SED, the Regents and the governor over that system.
And of course continued pressure on the politicians who back this crap is important - helping Tim Wu beat Kathy Hochul for lieutenant governor is a way to send a message to the Common Core-supporting, education-reform shills in Albany that they may pay a price for pursuing that agenda.
A few years ago, the Endless Testing regime, the Common Core implementation and evaluation reform seemed like a done-deal in New York State, baked into the system, with little parents or teachers could do to fight them.
But as it becomes more and more apparent that much of this reform agenda is half-baked, error-riddled, indeed, even harmful to students and teachers, the more likely it is we can get this stuff pulled.
When Joe Nocera starts writing columns about the toxicity of the Endless Testing regime and test-based accountability for teachers on the Times opinion page, we're starting to get there.
Much work to be done yet.
But as we start a new school year here in New York City, you've got to smile to see a front page story in Politico about the Obama administration's evaluation reform agenda being in "disarray" and on life support that looks like it will be pulled when Obama leaves office.