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Common Ground on D.C. Evaluations?

The Washington Post has this story up about the new teacher-evaluation system that D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her team are devising.

The story does a good job talking about the benefits and perils of a "value added" system that uses test-score growth to estimate teacher effectiveness, a model I've written about before. But it doesn't elaborate on one of the most interesting pieces Rhee has proposed: to use a system of "impartial master teachers" to observe and evaluate teachers' practices, rather than a principal.

At a recent Washington event, Rhee gave a few more details about how this system of teacher observations might work. The master teachers wouldn't have ties to particular schools, and would be grade-level and subject-matter experts, so that teachers are evaluated by someone who knows the content area and the grade-level expectations of that teacher, rather than an administrator who might not have experience in the teacher's area, she said at a research conference sponsored by the National Council for Teacher Quality, in Washington.

The WaPo story notes that the city pretty much holds the reins on the teacher-evaluation system, which means that the Washington Teachers' Union/American Federation of Teachers can't do much to protest it apart from filing an unfair labor-practice complaint. AFT President Randi Weingarten is said to want to include the teacher-evaluation system under the scope of bargaining. Although Rhee has gathered input from teachers, that's still a far cry from a collectively bargained evaluation system. I can definitely imagine Weingarten resisting a system that isn't negotiated as part of the contract.

On the other hand, Weingarten recently told me that neither test scores nor principal observations should be the only factor for determining teacher performance. Instead, they should be based on multiple measures. And since Rhee's system incorporates both growth-based test scores and the aforementioned master-teacher observations, perhaps there's some common ground here.

Let's hope we'll have more details on this soon. At the NCTQ conference, Rhee said she and the AFT were hammering out dates to return to the bargaining table. Don't touch that dial...

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