Evaluating preschool teachers--oh yeah, them too!

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Fixing teacher evaluations is a popular topic these days, but there's been relatively little attention given to how preschool teachers ought to be evaluated. Even though these teachers take on the weighty task of students' linguistic development, their second-class citizen status too often translates into too little attention to their quality.

The omission of such teachers from the on-going teacher evaluation debate makes a report from the New America Foundation a welcome prod, as it puts forward a range of options available for evaluating PreK-3 teachers. The report proposes no fewer than 17 common sense recommendations for the federal government, states, local educators and principals, teacher prep programs, professional development leaders, and researchers. Suggestions like integrating evaluation and professional development, and funding comprehensive assessment systems make sense to us--though they might be a tough sell in today's tight budget times.

Our one complaint: If we are going to push for observation-based performance assessments for these teachers (a move that is long overdue), it's not enough to suggest, as authors Lisa Guernsey and Susan Ochshorn do, that the federal government should merely encourage Pre-K programs like Head Start to use "valid and reliable" instruments. Rather, use of such instruments should be required.