A System Without Teeth has no Bite

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The New Teacher Project's latest report, Hiring, Assignment and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools, takes a no-holds-barred look at the HR policies in the nation's third largest public school system. Interviewing nearly 1500 teachers, 500 rejected applicants, and 500 principals, TNTP looks at both the ratings teachers receive in their evaluations and the system's hiring procedures.

With encouraging signs of progress on the hiring front (the applicant pool is growing and selectivity is on the rise), the district's real weakness rests with its system for evaluating teachers. Not one of the teachers in 69 of the 87 schools labeled as "failing" last year received an unsatisfactory rating. In fact, over 90 percent of all Chicago Public School teachers received a rating of superior or excellent between 2003 and 2006.

When asked, principals readily admitted to inflating teachers' performance. But they also pointed out the inherent flaws of the evaluation instrument they use: 73 percent of principals interviewed think that the evaluation tool does not meaningfully or effectively assess teacher performance. Could it be because student performance has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of a teacher's evaluation? It's a problem in almost all evaluations used across the country, as NCTQ's recent State Teacher Policy Yearbook documents.

As new TNTP President Tim Daly tells it, "the system has no teeth."