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Dallas Teacher Rating System Raises Questions

Teacher advocates have long argued that it is unfair to judge a teacher by student test scores alone, especially those in classrooms with challenging environments. This week, the state commissioner of education agreed with that perspective when he reinstated a teacher who was fired over a teacher rating system based on student test scores.

According to this story in the Dallas Morning News, Sharon Toussaint was one of eight teachers fired from Kimball High School under a recent reorganization to address chronically low test scores.

Toussaint petitioned Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott to be reinstated. In his ruling, Scott said the school environment, including student discipline problems, and not Toussaint, caused the lack of student achievement. He asked that the district either reinstate her with back pay, or pay her one year's salary.

Toussaint told the Dallas Morning News that she had had years of good job evaluations.

The Dallas system, called the Classroom Effectiveness Index, is a decade-old one that was dusted off and revived last year so school district officials could hinge on it a $22 million employee bonus program. It received positive reviews from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999 and from researchers at the University of North Texas in 2002. But since last year, it has been found to be riddled with errors, most due to clerical mistakes.

Perhaps Dallas could serve as a valuable example for school districts around the nation which are focusing more keenly than ever before on teacher accountability and on designing systems to assess the effectiveness of educators?

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