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Developments on 'Effectiveness' Materialize in Texas, Illinois

This week saw two more major developments in teacher effectiveness policies.

In Houston, the school board yesterday approved a new system that would base half of each teacher's rating on student growth measures, Ericka Mellon reports. Observations by principals will make up the other major component of a teacher's score.

Teachers and other stakeholders were considered in developing the system, but not to the extent that Houston's teacher association wanted; the association has been threatening to appeal to the Texas Education Agency to slow down the implementation process.

In adopting the system, which is scheduled go into affect for the upcoming school year, Houston officially becomes the largest school district to use a "value added" method in teacher evaluations. A number of states and districts are in the planning stages to do so, but most haven't actually gotten off the ground yet.

There are a lot of questions to be answered about this work in general, particularly which controls and variables should be used in value-added models, and what kinds of effects their adoption will have on teaching and learning.

Meanwhile, the Illinois legislature on May 11 completed an education overhaul tying teacher tenure, advancement and layoff policy to evaluations, including consideration of student achievement. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, for signature.

This was billed as a big win for "collaboration," as unions helped design the legislation in concern with advocacy groups and others. But last week it hit some snags when unions in the state, especially the Chicago Teachers Union, took issue with a few provisions having to do with striking and the scope of bargaining. They charged that the provisions didn't reflect the negotiations at hand. (Other advocates dispute this account, saying that the union just didn't read the language over very carefully.)

Unions now want lawmakers to complete a "trailer bill" to make some fixes to the proposal, and various parties involved in the original negotiations have met to craft those ideas. But at least one of them told me that it might be more difficult to reach consensus this time.

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