Baby Steps towards Value Added
So the big news is that the NEA has agreed to using evidence of student learning as a part of a teacher’s evaluation.
But not by using any of today’s standardized tests.
The union will accept tests that are “developmentally appropriate, scientifically valid and reliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher’s performance.” University of Wisconsin testing expert Douglas Harris basically says that those tests don’t currently exist. But maybe someday they will be available in conjunction with the core curriculum.
Sergen Eubanks, the director of teacher quality for the union, seemed to recognize that the value added horse is already out of the gate. In truth, some states have already passed legislation requiring that student performance as measured by standardized tests be part of teacher evaluation. And some local teachers’ associations, far ahead of their national organization, have already agreed to it. On a positive note, the union endorsed the idea that failing teachers be given a year rather than two to improve.
“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” says NEA union president Dennis Van Roekel. “This policy statement was written by and for teachers while heeding others’ expertise as well… It offers sweeping changes to build a true profession of teaching that is focused on high expectations.”
Sweeping? Hardly. But it’s a start.
Then, because union leaders couldn't quit while they were ahead, delegates approved a gratuitous item that accuses Teach for America of taking jobs from union teachers available for hire instead. TFA’s response, solicited by Stephen Sawchuk, took the high road.
Still, there is progress. Baby steps, but progress.