Published Online: March 26, 2010
Published in Print: March 31, 2010, as Unions Blast Emphasis on Tests, Turnarounds

Unions Object to Proposals on Teachers, Principals

The heavy focus on teacher and principal effectiveness in the Obama administration’s blueprint for rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education has already garnered criticism from the national teachers’ unions.

The administration would require that states accepting Title I aid for disadvantaged students establish definitions of “effective teacher,” “effective principal,” “highly effective teacher,” and “highly effective principal,” all based in significant part on student academic growth. States would also agree to overhaul their teacher- and principal-evaluation systems to align with the definitions.

The ESEA plan also would mesh with the administration’s fiscal 2011 budget request in cutting the nearly $3 billion Title II teacher-quality formula-aid program for states and pouring all new teacher-quality funding into competitive-grant programs ("Obama Proposes Teacher Results in Federal Law," February 24, 2010).

The blueprint outlines plans to increase the amount of reporting on factors affecting teachers at the local level. At least every two years, districts and states would report on a variety of school-level factors, including the distribution of effective teachers and principals; rates of teacher and principal absenteeism; teacher-retention rates; educators’ level of experience; and teacher-survey data on the level of support and working conditions. States also would be required to report on the effectiveness of their teacher-preparation programs.

The two national teachers’ unions have come out in opposition to the proposals.

Administration officials “say they don’t want to micromanage, and then they tell 15,000 school districts how to evaluate and pay teachers,” Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, said in an interview.

In the NEA’s view, the blueprint would still put too much focus on standardized tests—a major complaint about the law’s current version, the No Child Left Behind Act. “There ought to be multiple measures, and that doesn’t mean three or four tests instead of one,” Mr. Van Roekel said.

The leader of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, is concerned about the four required strategies in the blueprint for the 5 percent of schools identified as the lowest-performing in a state. Several of the strategies could cost teachers their jobs. She would like lawmakers to preserve the option for other restructuring models, such as allowing schools to customize interventions for students.

Both union heads expressed concern about the shift to competitive funding. They were backed by Daniel Domenech, the president of the American Association School Administrators, who said that the proposals would disadvantage poor, high-need, and rural communities.

Vol. 29, Issue 27, Page 23

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