NY Regents: Stop the madness!

Thank goodness for Fordham’s Peter Meyer, a master at turning policy gibberish into plain English. But can it possibly be true, as reported in his recent post, that the Regents and the New York State Department of Education went to court with the teachers union over whether test scores would count as 20 percent or 40 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation? And, after losing, that they are planning to use additional public funds to appeal?

Set aside the fact that New York’s evaluation law (passed to prime the Race to the Top pump) clearly set the ratio at 20 percent. There’s a larger point: WHO CARES?

We are at the very beginning stages of teacher evaluation reform. For the first time in history, states and school districts are aiming to take the evaluation of teachers seriously. But when it comes down to the details, we’ve got little more than educated guesses about what might work best. Yes, tying 40 percent of an evaluation to test scores might make it easier to dump a teacher who gets terrible results. But it might also create unhealthy pressure for ALL teachers in the state to teach narrowly to the test. Maybe 20 percent would strike a better balance–and still allow administrators to move bad teachers out of the classroom. We really don’t know.

So to the Regents and the NY state department of ed I say this: Your newfangled evaluation system is going to be miles more rigorous than what virtually all your districts have today, regardless of whether one-fifth or two-fifths of the ratings comes down to test scores. Call off the lawyers, and get down to work.

-Mike Petrilli

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