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In less than three weeks Education Week readers enjoyed two article commentaries about value-added teacher evaluation, one titled “‘Value Added’ Concept Proves Beneficial to Teacher Colleges” (Sawchuk, 02.17.12) and one titled “Value-Added Evaluation Hurts Teaching” (Darling-Hammond, 03.05.12). Each commentary produced comments 4 days and 6 days respectively post online publication; some positive, some negative, and some declaring “what’s the alternative?” (to the status quo or “what we’ve always done”) as policymakers, educational leaders, and parents seek to improve public education in the U.S.

The value-added evaluation discussion brings to the individual-level (teacher) discussion that began years ago at the school-level, that is, how to improve schools to improve student learning. These were the discussions of vouchers and school choice, which are now the discussion of charter schools. It is similar to recent discussion in Florida surrounding HB 1191, the Parent Empowerment in Education bill, which just failed to make it out of Florida’s Senate.

Among many actions the proposed Florida bill would have required school districts to consider parent turnaround options for low performing schools. It also would have forced implementation of a turnaround option when a school “does not sufficiently improve during the first two years of intervention” (see analysis). The proposed bill also encouraged parents with children in low-performing schools to engage in improving the school and increasing the opportunities for student learning and achievement.

What’s being said about the bill’s defeat? (Peltier, 03.09.12)

Teacher union representatives and local school boards hailed the proposal’s defeat.

Critics said the measure would have driven another nail into public education and teacher unions, and would have benefited for-profit charter school companies that lack the same accountability standards as traditional public schools.

The proposal would have ramped up accountability standards on a number of fronts, but the most controversial measure, by far, dealt with failing schools.

Backers said the measure was a response to a recalcitrant school system that is slow to change and deaf to the needs of their respective communities.

One might argue that the individual-level (teacher) focus is has the same goal as the school-level focus and that is to improve opportunities for all children to learn. The question becomes… How do we best do that?

 

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Darling-Hammond, L. (03.05.12). Value-Added Evaluation Hurts Teaching. Education Week. Available online here.

Sawchuk, S. (02.17.12). Value Added’ Concept Proves Beneficial to Teacher Colleges. Education Week. Available online here.

Peltier, M. (03.09.2012). Florida rejects ‘Parent Trigger’ bill for failing schools. Reuters. Available online here.

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