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AFT, AASA Launch Evaluation, Due Process Initiative

The American Association of School Administrators has agreed to help districts implement an American Federation of Teachers-designed system in which teacher evaluations are linked to professional development, remediation, and dismissal.

According to a release from the two groups, Michigan State Superintendent Mike Flanagan and AFT Michigan President David Hecker have committed to encouraging districts and unions statewide to use the system. Select districts and unions in Ohio and Colorado are also on board.

"Improving teacher quality can't simply be a catchphrase. It has to be put into practice," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech, meanwhile, said the effort was not just a policy adoption. "We make things happen where it matters, in classrooms across the country," he said.

The announcement comes as the latest step in a series of initiatives AFT has been brewing. It's complicated stuff, so here's a rundown of how all the pieces fit together:

• In January 2010, Weingarten outlined plans to streamline teacher due process. She drew a crucial distinction between cases of teacher misconduct and those of poor classroom performance, saying due process procedures could differ depending on the charge. The union tapped Kenneth Feinberg to craft a plan for expediting cases of misconduct.

• In January of this year, Feinberg released his proposed framework for dealing with cases of teacher malfeasance. In brief, it said such cases should be triggered by objective evidence and resolved within 100 days. Soon afterwards, the AFT's executive council approved the proposal.

• This past February, Weingarten outlined a plan in which reforms to teacher-evaluation systems would be coupled with due process procedures. Teachers identified as underperforming by the system would be given help and supports to improve. If they didn't improve in a year, they could be dismissed with the evidence supplied by the evaluation system informing the due process hearing. At the time, the AASA said it would review that proposal.

• The underlying evaluation system for this process would be based on principles Weingarten outlined in her January 2010 speech. The basic approach is one that would take into account teaching standards, observation procotols, multiple sources of student-achievement evidence, and the school context.

• Such evaluations would be primarily to help teachers improve their craft, the union stressed. AFT has taken pains to counter the idea of "sorting" teachers, i.e., using the systems primarily to lop off the worst performers and give the top performers bonuses. It's enough of a worry that AFT officials like to refer to evaluations as "teacher-development and -evaluation systems." (Try getting that past my editor.)

In any case, AFT has been encouraging local districts and administrators to adopt this kind of teacher evaluation, and apparently about 100 of its districts are now in that process. I've asked for that list, and the union is working on getting it to me. Now, with the help of the AASA, the union will presumably have some additional muscle behind the efforts.

Whew.

The deliverables for these new commitments aren't entirely clear. Putting these things into place is a complicated process. States, after all, have laws on their books about evaluation and due process, and there are other legislative efforts afoot in places like Michigan that are not necessarily aligned to this vision.

And let's not forget that Michigan has quite a few National Education Association members, too; that union is scheduled to debate teacher evaluation in just a few short days.

Lots of things to follow up on here in the weeks, months, and years ahead: Rest assured that Teacher Beat will be paying close attention.

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