Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Responses to Simplistic Approaches

Co-Chairs of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education -- Helen Ladd, Pedro Noguera, and Tom Paysant -- issued the following statement on behalf of the network of thousands of individuals who signed the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign statement in 2008, including the now secretary of education, Arne Duncan. The statement was issued as a timely response to "simplistic approaches."
-- Mark

New Material on a Simplistic Approach to Teacher Evaluation and School Improvement
Many policymakers have recently become enthusiastic about using student test scores, and gains on student test scores, to evaluate and compensate teachers. We agree that every classroom should have a well-educated, professional teacher, and school systems should recruit, prepare, and retain teachers who are qualified to do the job. But evaluating and compensating teachers primarily by their student test scores can corrupt the educational process. Even the use of "value-added" test scores, in the absence of a holistic evaluation of teacher quality, can narrow the curriculum, encourage gamesmanship in education, and misidentify more and less qualified teachers.

The Economic Policy Institute has recently published two documents that elaborate on these points and that we want to share with you, our colleagues in the campaign for a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. (click link to read further and if you are an education researcher or an educator, to sign-on to the statement on the use of student test scores)

a) A distinguished group of economists, psychometricians, and policy experts have analyzed the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. This team, comprised of Eva L. Baker, Paul E. Barton, Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel, Helen F. Ladd, Robert L. Linn, Diane Ravitch, Richard Rothstein, Richard J. Shavelson and Lorrie Shepard, concluded that:
A review of the technical evidence leads us to conclude that, although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation. Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise.

Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning.
We have posted their brief on our website, at:

b) On Sunday, October 10, Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system, and Michelle Rhee, the recently-resigned Washington, D.C. chancellor, published a "manifesto" in the Washington Post claiming that the difficulty of removing incompetent teachers "has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future."

We regard the Klein-Rhee statement to be improvident. Although we support efforts to improve the quality of America's teachers, we are concerned about a tendency in public debate to scapegoat teachers for economic, social and educational failures over which they have no control. There are many other areas of improvement needed, in and out of school, to enhance children's chances for success.

In a new brief, Richard Rothstein elaborates on our disagreements with the Klein-Rhee approach, and calls for a different agenda, which includes improving teacher quality but also includes many other equally, if not more important school and out of school initiatives. Among these are improving school leadership, curriculum, and teacher collaboration, and taking other initiatives to improve children's ability to succeed by coming to school in better health and with more adequate experiences in early childhood and in out-of-school time. The brief also warns that we cannot ignore the disastrous consequences of the current economic crisis for school leaders' ability to nurture and educate our youth.

This brief, too, is posted on our website, at:

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