The AFT and Teacher Evaluations

Randi Weingarten and her American Federation of Teachers just jumped into the fray on teacher evaluation reform with a new and relatively comprehensive framework.  The document is here.  Folks weigh in at the National Journal here.  Andy Rotherham has a really good take here.  My take is here, and reprinted for your enjoyment below.  Despite my relative snarkiness below, this really is pretty momentous.  Still, we don’t want to confuse a good idea with its execution …

Two quick comments on this, one on the content and one on the atmospherics. First, in theory, the AFT’s framework sounds right. It has all of the critical components of a good method for evaluating staff effectiveness: a strong process, transparent evaluation criteria, the use of multiple data points, measurement of both inputs and outputs, and ramifications for different ratings. But there is VERY careful wording around the removal of ineffective teachers. Here’s the exact language: “Once a valid and comprehensive system of teacher development and evaluation is in place, districts can formulate a fair process for … when necessary, removal of ineffective teachers who do not improve.” Maybe it’s the skeptic in me, but I’m willing to bet that the words “when necessary” and “improve” are going to do a lot of work – and have a lot of flexibility – in that formulation. Ineffective teachers should be required to become EFFECTIVE teachers, not merely improve within the context of ineffectiveness. The formulation in the AFT’s platform leaves too much wiggle room on this.

Second, I’m thrilled with the AFT’s “determination to lead the way to a more rigorous system of teacher development and evaluation,” but isn’t this a really flexible definition of leadership? Off the top of my head I can name a handful of organizations who have been light-years ahead on this issue for years, including The New Teacher Project, The New Teacher Center, DC Public Schools’ IMPACT system, and the Education Trust, to name a few. If systems of teacher evaluation across the country evolve along the dimensions that the AFT has explicated here, I will be an incredibly happy little ed reformer, and I will give boatloads of kudos to Weingarten and the rest of the AFT for shifting across difficult political fault lines. But tons of folks have been pushing this issue for years; some have spent careers on it. Some credit where credit is due would be nice.

2 Responses to The AFT and Teacher Evaluations

  1. Kathleen M. Smith says:

    The comments you have provided are on target. Give credit to those who have tried and change the wording to be truly accountable. Of the two, the second is most important. Let’s not be fluffy. Let’s specify when necessary really is and what improve really means. Well stated!!!!!

  2. Pingback: ESEA Redux « Meeting the Turnaround Challenge

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