Teaching Profession

Teacher-Evaluation Reporting: Where Are the Teeth?

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 06, 2009 1 min read

Andy Rotherham has a thoughtful post on the teacher-evaluation reporting proposal that the Education Department will soon be opening for public comment. Rotherham’s worry, and it’s a legitimate one, is that this new reporting requirement in and of itself won’t have much of an effect:

Federal policymakers have tried that approach on a range of issues from higher education to teacher education to all manner of K-12 issues and it’s had little effect. The states are pretty good at gaming the data ... Besides, is the problem really a lack of information about the problems per se? I don’t think anyone influential is sitting around wondering whether or not teacher evaluations are any good ..."

A case in point involves the teacher-college accountability requirements that began in the 1998 Higher Education Act, which compelled those institutions to report passage rates on licensing exams. Rather than using this data to identify and close poor programs, states lowered their cut scores and a lot of prep programs ended up making passage of the tests a graduation requirement, so it didn’t amount to much. (The reauthorized HEA tries to address this, and I pushed Secretary of Ed Duncan to elaborate on it) in a recent interview.

I can’t help but think the administration knows about these loopholes, though. It will be interesting to see if they actually put teeth in this proposal. And surely there are district officials and teachers’ unions out there that can agree on a better evaluation that can be used both for instructional improvement and for accountability purposes, like those in the Teacher Advancement Program.

I’ll be doing a follow-up story on the evaluation issue sometime in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, post your thoughts here, or e-mail me at ssawchuk@epe.org. Who knows—maybe we can talk!

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