Teaching Profession

Reps. Polis, Davis Introduce Educator-Evaluation Bill

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 19, 2010 2 min read
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Representatives Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced a bill recently that would require states to oversee new systems for evaluating teachers and principals—including consideration of “value added” estimates based on student scores, where available.

To receive their cut of Title I aid, states would have to establish model teacher- and -principal evaluation instruments that meet certain requirements, and then help districts adopt similar systems and use them to provide feedback and inform personnel decisions. Then states would have to report the percentage of educators scoring at each level of the systems and in the highest- and lowest-minority schools and highest- and lowest-poverty schools. Districts would face similar reporting requirements.

Sound familiar? That’s because the bill would essentially codify what the Obama administration proposed in its ESEA blueprint and FY 2011 budget proposal: conditioning Title I aid on the establishment of a teacher-evaluation system linked to student achievement.

And according to our own Alyson Klein, Rep. Polis introduced a bill to extend the Race to the Top program and pushed back against a proposal to offset RTTT, performance-pay funding, and other Obama administration priorities. So it’s a good bet that the administration has provided some measure of input into this proposal, too.

A couple of important notes. First of all, under the bill, student academic growth as measured by statewide or local assessments—or, where available, value-added analysis—would be the “predominant” factor in teacher evaluations. (The word choice here is meaningful. It leaves no ambiguity that at least 50 percent of the evaluation would depend on this, unlike the term “significant” used in the Race to the Top guidelines.) They’d also be evaluated in the classroom against a set of teaching standards several times a year by “more than one” observer.

The guidelines for principal evaluations are even more detailed. Principals would be judged, among other things, on helping develop teachers, implementing a rigorous curriculum, and collecting and using student- performance data in the school.

Teachers or principals that got poor evaluations and failed to improve would be barred from working in schools receiving Title I funding, the bill states.

Possibly in response to The Los Angeles Times’ controversial series that publicly identified teachers with low value-added ratings, the bill says that the state must take steps to make sure that educators’ individual performance ratings aren’t made public.

A bunch of “reformy” groups have thrown their weight behind this bill: the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Equality Project, and the New Teacher Project.

Polis has already introduced a bunch of other notable education bills, including one to improve the training of principals. Davis’ contributions to education policy include work on student and teacher mentoring.

This is a bill to watch. Though it probably won’t advance on it own, it is a marker for language that could get wrapped into an ESEA rewrite—or added as an amendment to that larger vehicle. Remember, both Polis and Davis are on the House Education Committee that will take the lead in shaping that chamber’s revision of the ESEA.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.