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November 13, 2009

Education in the News This Week

Ratings Have Little to Do With Teaching
In Monday's Washington Post, education writer Jay Mathews quipped that with teacher ratings in most DC school districts "as discerning as peewee soccer award night, with everyone getting a trophy, why bother?" A recent New Teacher Project report stated that the teacher evaluation system "not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hard working teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum." In Massachusetts, educators are asking similar questions about how to best hire, evaluate, pay, and assign teachers:

We base hiring decisions on certification credentials that don’t seem to correlate highly with teacher quality. Most teachers receive only cursory performance evaluations, with virtually every teacher graded highly. We use a one-size-for-all salary structure, in which the only factors used in raises are a teacher’s higher education credentials and number of years in the system, neither of which is strongly linked to teacher effectiveness. And we often let seniority, rather than merit, drive decisions about where a teacher is placed.

In an attempt to answer some of these questions, Texas has toughened up its standards for teacher certification.

$20 for 20 Test Points?
In a ploy to raise funds this year, a middle school in North Carolina tried peddling better test scores. Though Wayne County school administrators shut the fundraiser down on Wednesday after news of the campaign raised concerns among local parents. "Tight state and local budgets have put extra pressure on schools to raise their own money," reports the News & Observer. "But [Rebecca Garland, the chief academic officer for the state Department of Public Instruction,] said exchanging grades for money teaches children the wrong lessons. She also said it is bad testing practice and is unfair to students whose parents can't pay."

Map Your State's Education Innovation
The Center for American Progress took the findings from their Leaders & Laggards report and created an interactive map to visualize not "how states are performing today, but at what they are doing to prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead." Perhaps unsurprisingly, Texas is in the lead for teacher hiring and evaluation! But how does your state fare on the issues?

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