April 08, 2009
While D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's battle over salary and tenure has gained much media attention, less heed has been paid to her plans to overhaul the District's teacher evaluation systems. Yet a consensus is growing that they need dramatic reform, too. Studies by the New Teacher Project in various cities found that a disproportionate percentage of teachers (in some cases, almost 100 percent) are given positive evaluations; Education Sector found that teacher evaluations are more like "drive-bys" than anything else--woefully short, vague, and based on indicators that employ criteria unrelated to student learning. Luckily, Rhee has retained a top notch research team (Harvard ed school researcher Tom Kane and the research organization Mathematica) to help DCPS develop a value added system; she's also invited DC's teachers to a series of focus groups on the subject and retained former National Teacher of the Year Jason Kamras to head this effort for her. While we don't know what Rhee's squad will come up with, we do know that the current evaluation system is a joke. Even the union can agree on that. But we have to start somewhere and Rhee's mettle to at least try to fix this mess--and recruit some smart people to help her--is commendable.
"Rhee Works on Overhaul of Teacher Evaluations," by Bill Turque, Washington Post, April 7, 2009