Rating performance—for teachers, students, and schools—is a tricky business

As Bill
Gates opined
in this morning’s New
York Times
, education discourse is better off—and comity about needed
reforms somewhat more likely—without teachers’ test scores plastered on
front-pages, where legitimate caveats about margins of error and sample sizes
are likely to get swept aside. As Eduwonk notes, parents still deserve to know whether
their children’s teachers (and others in their school) measure up; but they
should get that information from the principal, not the morning paper.

The Chicago Board of Education backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest
move to shape up the Windy City’s schools
yesterday, approving closures,
teacher firings, or management changes at seventeen underachieving public schools.
Gladfly is thrilled that, from Chicago to Cleveland to Providence, a growing
number of big-city Democratic mayors are realizing that standing up to teacher
unions isn’t just sound policy—it can be a politically smart decision.

Tucked away in President Obama’s budget
is a proposal to cut NAEP funding and shift from a "Nation's report
card" to a system that benchmarks studentsagainst the PISA. While putting the performance
of American students in international perspective
provides some useful insights,
tying our understanding of student achievement to a fatally flawed test like
the PISA is a big
step backwards
. Besides, we already know how to compare NAEP results with
those of other countries.

The
New York Times reports that states
are tweaking
new teacher evaluation systems
as they implement them. While some reformers
worry about watering down these promising innovations, we say: A dose of
pragmatism and openness to experimentation here is something to celebrate.

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