In my last post I talked about the dog that didn’t bark in California: the legislature’s decision to back away from a bill, supported by the teachers’ unions, that would have subjected teacher evaluations to collective bargaining. Los Angeles is now moving forward with plans to include test scores as one element of teacher evaluations . . . as California law requires, and has required for many years.
This event, or non-event, didn’t grab a lot of headlines outside California. Chicago’s teacher strike is big news. Lots of issues divide Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the teachers’ unions, including an inevitable pay dispute arising from the city’s effort to lengthen some of the nation’s shortest class days at a time when the city is very, very short of money.
But according to the mayor, at least, teacher evaluations are the biggest sticking point.
As Yahoo News reports,
On Monday morning, 350,000 kids in Chicago found themselves without a classroom to bustle about as the city’s teachers went on their first strike in 25 years. The sticking point? A new teacher evaluation system.
While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the local teachers’ union disagree on a long list of issues, including planned pay raises and sick day accrual, Emanuel said in a press conference Monday afternoon that the evaluation is the main obstacle to agreement. The new system would eventually use students’ standardized test scores as 40 percent of a teacher’s yearly evaluation. Teachers who don’t improve their students’ test scores would be fired.
Many Democrats, including Emanuel’s former boss President Barack Obama, embrace this test-based way of judging educators. The president’s “Race to the Top” federal program awarded money to states that agreed to rate teachers this way and institute other reforms, like encouraging the creation of more independent charter schools. As of last October, teachers can be dismissed in 14 states based on their students’ test scores.
It’s no secret to blog readers that I believe schools need stronger teacher evaluation systems, and that value-added test scores should often be included as one measure of performance. I’ve also contended that teachers need both to embrace more robust evaluations AND to help develop and administer evaluation regimes. It’s hard to believe that the Chicago teacher’s strike will move the second part of this agenda forward, or improve the public’s deteriorating trust in teachers.
What do you think?