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Mandatory Teacher Evaluation Reform Dumped from ESEA Draft

The most recent draft of a Senate ESEA proposal would ditch a requirement for states and districts to revamp teacher evaluations, making it an optional activity for most. It would be required only for districts that win Teacher Incentive Fund grants.
UPDATED, Oct. 18: Eagle-eyed readers say it's also an incentive under Race to the Top, which would be codified in the bill.

All states and districts would still be expected to report on teachers' experience levels and whether they are teaching in their area of certification and have completed teacher preparation programs, and to equalize the distribution of teachers with those qualifications. (These metrics were in the earlier draft too, but were supposed to be a "transitional" form of reporting until the new evaluation systems kicked in.)

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers both quickly praised the change, as did Republicans, who argue that federally mandated teacher evaluations are an overreach.

This is truly an interesting development. When No Child Left Behind passed, a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans pushed through the school accountability provisions. With the parties ever more divided, that center doesn't seem to exist anymore. Both right and left, seem intent on scaling back a muscular federal role in education reform, though for very different reasons.

AFT and NEA want still more flexibility on the school-turnaround models; neither union wants the staff replacement provisions carried over from the Duncan administration's version of the School Improvement Grants program.

NEA and a bunch of other groups, meanwhile, say they want to go still further and reduce reliance on annual testing (which would also make growth models and value-added measures well nigh impossible). So far, this is something that even Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander's proposals have retained.

Interestingly, the latest version of the bill proposed by Senate education committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, retains changes to the Title I "comparability" requirements, which, as I've written before, would have some serious consequences for districts and schools.

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