Teacher Evaluations U.S. Department of Education

A Debate About Whether the Feds Should Mandate Teacher Evaluation

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In this post, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute in D.C., debates Peter Cunningham, who served as Arne Duncan’s Assistant Secretary for Communications in President Obama’s first term. The subject: Should the federal government mandate teacher evaluation.

Cunningham, not surprisingly, says yes, suggesting that teachers would not be evaluated correctly (I.e. using test scores) without a federal mandate.

Hess opposes a federal mandate.

Here is the beginning of his very fine response:

“School systems should do much better when it comes to teacher evaluation, but Congress should stay far, far away from that process. When it comes to teacher evaluation, where the question is not whether it’s done but how well it’s done, federal requirements are good at spurring commotion and compliance, but lousy at ensuring that complex tasks are done well.

“It’s not like teacher evaluation is a new thing. Schools and systems have done it forever, and they’ve generally been awful at it. Guess what? For all the frustration and furor prompted by the Obama administration’s waivers, little has changed. In states like Florida, Tennessee, and Michigan, 99% of teachers were rated effective before they unveiled new evaluation systems in accord with federal demands—and 98% or 99% were deemed effective under their new systems.”

My thought: Teaching is a very essential profession, even though most teachers are not paid like professionals. If Congress insists on mandates for teachers, why not high-stakes doctor evaluations? Lawyer evaluations? State legislator evaluations? Members of Congress evaluations? Governor evaluations?

For legislators, for example, how often were you absent? How many votes did you miss? Who funded your campaign? Did your votes reflect the wishes of your contributors, or the needs of your constituents? How many bills did you introduce? How many passed? What changes did they produce? Did you help to reduce poverty? Unemployment?

Wonder how doctors and lawyers would respond to evaluations mandated by Congrress?

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