Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mad, Bad...

If you thought that the notion that we should be evaluating teachers by student test scores was bad enough, it just got worse.
Stand for Children in Massachusetts (note to former MA members: read this. It will sound hauntingly familiar) is continuing its alliance with big money by advocating not only that teachers be evaluated on student test scores, but that districts be forced to rate this information above all in decisions around hiring, firing, promotions, and...pretty much anything.
This comes from State House News who report that Stand plans to mount a 2012 ballot drive to this end.
Thankfully, it appears that the Secretary of Education is not on board this one:
“For the first time ever we’re including things like student performance and student voice in the evaluation process,” he said. “I’m not ready yet to talk about all the consequences that will flow from this until I have confidence that the instrument is effectively implemented.”
Reville said the evaluation criteria approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in June will be applied in 35 underperforming schools in the upcoming school year, and other schools will adopt them a year later. He said it’s unclear yet whether the new criteria will produce valuable data.
“My sense is, let’s give the instrument some time to prove itself. Then, if it does, we should quickly have a conversation about what are the consequences that ought to flow from the results,” he said. “It’s a conversation we need to have. I’m not sure we need to have it now.”
(Note to the Secretary: actually, the time to have the conversation was back when you were being told by many, including actual education researchers, that this is an ineffective way of evaluating teachers. Ruling it out now would also not be inappropriate.)
Paul Toner, president of Mass Teachers Association, pegs this one right:
“Our problem has been a failure of supervision and administration in the evaluation process,” he said. “There’s plenty of teeth in the new regulations we have. Our major problem with evaluations in Massachusetts is people haven’t been doing them regularly and consistently across the state.” which I would also add, inadequate training of those doing the evaluation, something still not dealt with under the new regulations.
Darkly amusingly, Stand says they want to work with the teachers' union on this one. They also speak of "building a coaltion" to support this, which one supposes they've already done, as their board includes officials..."from Bain Capital, Fidelity Investments, Fisher Lynch Capital, and other major businesses, as well as a member of the Newton School Committee" (that last also from the SHN article).

One expects that Stand will run this the way they ran Illinois on Senate Bill 7: throw a ton of money at it, and wrangle everyone else with plenty of lobbying. The one bit that may be different than in IL: they've got some newish members in Massachusetts that they presumably will be again trying the "if you want good teachers, you must support this" line on, as they did with the new teacher regulations here in Massachusetts. In that case, it was done without reference to actual data or research, and without asking for input from actual average citizens, except in response to spun poll questions.

And should you be approached by anyone wanting you to sign something about "teacher effectiveness" anytime soon? I'd strongly recommend saying no thanks.

*the quote finishes "and dangerous to know." Lady Caroline Lamb speaking of Lord Byron

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