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Despite the lack of evidence for tying teacher evaluation to student test scores, despite the hundreds of millions spent to implement it without success, this is Arne Duncan’s line in the sand. He insists on mandated annual testing, because without it, his idea of teacher evaluation crashes. He doesn’t care that most teachers don’t teach tested subjects. It is not the annual tests he loves, it is the teacher grades based in annual test scores.
In this thoughtful article in Education Week, Alyson Klein explains the dilemma of states. They need an NCLB waiver, but to get it they must follow Duncan’s orders on teacher evaluation. If the new Congress reauthorizes NCLB, all of this might be swept away. So the US DOE is trying to lock states into plans that last until 2018, long after this administration is gone. Once Duncan is gone, most states will abandon his mandates if they can.
Congress is moving full steam ahead on a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act that could undo nearly of the Obama administration’s K-12 policy priorities, including state goals for student achievement, dramatic school turnarounds, and evaluating teachers through test scores—and maybe even the tests themselves.
But, even the most optimistic prognosticators don’t expect the final legislation to make it across the finish line until the summer.
That means states with waivers from the No Child Left Behind law—42 plus the District of Columbia—will still have to negotiate the finer points of their accountability plans with the department for waiver renewals that could last through 2018-19, well beyond the end of the Obama administration.
Already states, including Texas and Maine, have been told they need to make changes to their teacher rating systems—or provide the department with much more information—before submitting their renewal applications at the end of March. Neither state’s waiver has been put on high risk status just yet. (More below.)
The administration, though, may be entering into the waiver-renewal process with a severely weakened hand, especially when it comes to holding states’ feet to the fire on the policy that seems nearest and dearest to its heart: crafting teacher evaluation systems that take state test scores into account, and align with the administration’s vision.
“I think there’s going to be so much state pushback on that that the department may have to be open to negotiations on what states put in for teacher evaluation,” said Terry Holiday, Kentucky’s education commissioner who, coincidentally enough, is testifying at a Senate NCLB reauthorization hearing on Tuesday on teacher quality…
What’s more, once the waivers are a thing of the past—either because NCLB has been reauthorized or because a new president has gotten rid of them—states aren’t likely to continue with teacher evaluation through outcomes on assessments, Holliday said.
I think we’d all quickly abandon all the work on tying teacher evaluation to test scores,” he said.