Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a particular point yesterday of underscoring that teacher evaluations should be based on "multiple measures" that would include student achievement alongside other factors, such as peer evaluations.
He was speaking at conference here in Washington for state officials hosted by the National Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality.
Frankly, the multiple-measures comment shouldn't come as a big surprise if you've been paying attention. A number of other ED officials have made the same point in other forums. But a lot of the state officials told me they were nevertheless glad to hear the message. They noted that the Race to the Top proposed criteria make a big deal about incorporating student achievement as a "significant" factor in evaluations but are silent about what other measures could or should be included.
Perhaps all of those comments worrying about whether value-added is ready for prime-time hit home at the Education Department. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the final Race to the Top guidelines will retain the requirements that test scores be factored in evaluations, but also make some recognition of the fact that they shouldn't be the sole measure for rating a teacher.
Duncan did stress, though, that the student-achievement element is the one that's missing from most evaluation systems. "We don't look at student work at all, we're a zero there," he said.
He demurred when asked whether he could point to a model evaluation system: "I'm hesitant to call one out because people think that that's it."
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten must be doing a victory lap around her office about now. She's been expounding upon the multiple-measures theme for months.
(Weingarten's stance on this issue has developed, too. Last year around this time she was adamant that "we have a moral, statistical, and educational reason" not to use test scores in evaluations. Now, her union is helping to fund projects to explore how it might be done fairly.)