The Race to the Top, Tenure and Politics, An Opportunity to Improve Pre Service Teacher Education and Professional Development, or, Weakening Unions and Alienating Classroom Teachers?

  One of the strange byproducts of the current economic duress is the huge pot of dollars, totally at the discretion of Secretary of Education Duncan. The regulations for the disbursement of the billions of dollars are in the comment period and the public discussion of the regs are concentrated on whether or not California and New York will be eligible for the funding.
The regulations require applicants, namely States, to allow data to be used for the evaluation of teachers and principals,
we propose that to be eligible under this program, a State
must not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers to linking
student achievement or student growth data to teachers for the purpose
of teacher and principal evaluation.
Current law in a number of States presents an obstacle to efforts to
improve teacher quality by prohibiting data regarding student achievement.
See the regs here.
New York State law, Section 3012b allows the use of data in teacher tenure determinations, but not the use of student performance data. The law is silent re the evaluation of tenured teachers.
  2. The regents shall, prescribe rules for  the  manner  in  which  the
  process  for  evaluation  of  a candidate for tenure is to be conducted.
  Such  rules  shall  include  a  combination  of  the  following  minimum
    a. evaluation of the extent to which the teacher successfully utilized
  analysis  of  available  student  performance  data  and  other relevant
  information when providing instruction but  the  teacher  shall  not  be
  granted or denied tenure based on student performance data;
    b. peer review by other teachers, as far as practicable; and
    c.  an  assessment  of  the  teacher’s  performance  by  the teacher’s
  building principal or other building  administrator  in  charge  of  the
  school or program.
See text of law here.
Education Week speculates that New York State may not qualify under the federal regulations.
The draft regs emphasize the importance of teacher quality and accept the notion that value-added must be part of a teacher/principal evaluation process.
 Research indicates that teacher
quality is a critical contributor to student learning and that there is
dramatic variation in teacher quality.\2\ Yet it is difficult to
predict teacher quality based on the qualifications that teachers bring
to the job. Indeed, measures such as certification, master’s degrees,
and years of teaching experience have limited predictive power on this
point.\3\ Therefore, one of the most effective ways to accurately
assess teacher quality is to measure the growth in achievement of a
teacher’s students;\4\ \5\ and by aggregating the performance of
students across teachers within a school, to assess principal quality
The Department regs are not based upon research, they make a political statement. Teacher pre-service exams do correlate with pupil achievement.
The core problem is that the regs jump ahead of the research, we do not have widely accepted, valid and reliable tools to assess teacher value-added, although there is considerable research in progress..
The New York City Department of Education has recently contracted with the Wisconsin Education Center for Research to explore a value-added tool. The Value-Added Research Center, part of the Wisconsin Center, is in the final phase of a study in the Milwaukee Public School system. The repercussions of this research may change the face of education, tools for teacher evaluation as well as pay for performance may evolve.
Rather than using pupil achievement, value added, to evaluate individual teachers we should use value added to identify successful teachers and investigate what make them successful. A particular reading or math program? race or class of the teacher? gender? If we can use value added to identify the skills and behaviors of highly successful teachers we can both improve teacher education programs and provide targeted professional development.
The stimulus dollars will be expended in a few years …what will be left? If all that is left is a set of state rules that evaluate teachers by student performance we will have wasted resources that we may never see again.

One response to “The Race to the Top, Tenure and Politics, An Opportunity to Improve Pre Service Teacher Education and Professional Development, or, Weakening Unions and Alienating Classroom Teachers?

  1. Remember when different learning/teaching styles was au courant? Looking for magical elements in successful teaching will be worthwhile as long as the results do not become written-in-stone mandates, the usual injurious result of the “suggestions” made by educational experts who haven’t seen an actual classroom in years, if ever.


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