Teacher Quality and Humility in K-12 and Pre-K
My colleague the Eduwonk has taken to referring to Fordham's Mike Petrilli as "Chicken Little," and I think that there's more than a bit of that in Petrilli's recent post worrying that reform-y types are transforming themselves into the compliance police.
That said, I do think Petrilli hits on some valid points regarding the quasi-religious fervor with which some reform-y types seem to have seized on specific prescriptions around teacher evaluation. At times lately, the way some reformers talk about teacher evaluation has started to remind me of the way some universal pre-k advocates talk about mandatory bachelor's degrees for preschool teachers. Both movements offer entirely reasonable responses (evaluate teachers based on student performance/raise pre-k teacher education levels) to real needs/problems (lack of meaningful teacher evaluation/need to improve quality in preschool classrooms). But I also see parallels in the way very specific policy prescriptions have come to be seen as a sort of litmus test of seriousness on these issues (annual evaluation based at least 51% on student learning gains/mandatory bachelor's degree and certification for all preschool teachers), as well as what I fear may be a tendency to overpromise/sell the results/importance of implementing desired reforms. In general, I think advocates of both stronger teacher evaluations and better-educated preschool teachers might be wise to adopt a posture of humility around both specific policy prescriptions and their predicted results.