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HISD approves tougher teacher evaluation plan

I have some concerns about this.

Teachers in the Houston Independent School District next year will face tougher job evaluations that grade them on their students’ test scores under a nationally watched plan that trustees approved Thursday.

The 7-2 vote did not shift from last month when the board gave initial approval to the evaluation system, thrusting HISD into the national debate over the best way to rate teachers as a way to improve public schools.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has pushed for the use of test scores to hold teachers more accountable, applauded the nation’s seventh-largest district for its plan.

“The new system uses multiple measures and incorporates student academic growth in a thoughtful and balanced way,” Duncan said. “Houston is providing a model for the state and other districts to follow.”

HISD’s two main teacher groups oppose parts of the plan, particularly the use of certain test data and the fast rollout.

I would have preferred to see a smaller rollout of this first, to get a better understanding of what the issues are before subjecting everyone to it. There’s also the fact that academic research on the effectiveness of these methods is mixed. Chron reporter Ericka Mellon does a great job rounding up some of the results from various studies here. One thing caught my eye:

[I]f you have 12 minutes, Jonah Rockoff, a business professor at Columbia University, gives a good explanation of value added and sums up the debate. His position: Value-added, a method about as reliable as batting averages in baseball, is fair to use as one part of teachers’ job evaluations.

There’s a video embedded with that explanation, which I have not yet had the time to watch. The irony, if that’s a direct quote, is that as any baseball stathead knows, batting average is actually quite unreliable in the sense that it tends to fluctuate from year to year. You remember what Crash Davis said in Bull Durham about the difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter is one seeing-eye grounder a week? It’s absolutely true, and the research there shows that the year-to-year correlation for batting average is considerably lower than things like isolated power and walk rate. I’ll have to watch the video to see how Professor Rockoff meant that statement, but if that’s what we’re relying on then folks have a reason to be skeptical. School Zone and Hair Balls have more.

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3 Comments

  1. chas-man says:

    why would anyone want to become a public school teacher?

    if education is so important to our country’s long term health (and i think it is), then why are we making it so undesirable (through low salaries, threats of pay cuts and lay offs, draconian and unreasonable job performance assessment systems, etc.) to become a school teacher in our public schools?

    go to youtube and search ‘bill moyers david simon’ for what, i feel like, is the most intelligent answer to the above. simon is a former public school teacher in baltimore, who created the hbo series ‘the wire’ (which also, itself, says some very cogent things about why our public school system is in the awful shape it is)…

  2. Izzy says:

    How to fix public education in Texas:
    1. Require school uniforms
    2. Hire more male Teachers
    3. Increase Teacher pay by 10K
    4. Give Standardized tests in native language
    5. Decrease emphasis on college
    6. Increase emphasis on vocation

  3. mary t. says:

    Izzy – excellent ideas, but if you change #3 to 25K, then #2 will take care of itself. And do a reality check on the salaries (and necessity) of some administrators, too.