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Duncan to States: Test Scores and Teacher Evaluations Do Mix

By Michele McNeil — June 08, 2009 1 min read
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In the first in a planned series of four speeches about the Education Department’s top reform priorities, Secretary Arne Duncan told education researchers today that innovation and new practices must be supported by evidence-based research. And, what’s more, he took states to task for enacting laws barring student test scores from being used in teacher-evaluation decisions.

Debbie Viadero, who covers and blogs about research for EdWeek, called in to say that Duncan, in particular, singled out New York and California for having such state laws.

But the problem goes deeper than those two states. According to the latest update from the Data Quality Campaign, 17 states have no plans to create a unique teacher-identifier number and link that number to student achievement data. My colleague Stephen Sawchuk, who blogs over at the Teacher Beat, has explored this issue in depth.

In his speech to the Institute for Education Sciences, Duncan urged researchers to work on improving accountability models based on student achievement growth on test scores and developing fair models of compensating teachers and other school staff based on the achievement of their students. Ultimately, he added, the data should be used to ensure that students are on track to graduate and to succeed in college, according to an Education Department press release.

Duncan’s planned series of speeches is built around the four “assurances” that are included in the federal economic stimulus law. The assurances say that states must make progress in turning around low-performing schools, building better longitudinal data systems, recruiting and retaining effective teachers, and implementing more rigorous college- and career-ready standards. States must show such progress, or a plan for progress, to get their share of the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. In addition, Duncan has said he will use a state’s progress on the assurances to help him make decisions on who gets the billions of dollars in Race to the Top funding under his control.

This isn’t the first time Duncan’s put a little bully in his bully pulpit. He’s put states on notice that charter school caps that limit the growth of these nontraditional public schools are not his idea of innovation or reform.

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