Dubbed "A Blueprint for Reform," the Obama Administration this month released the outline for its proposed ESEA reforms. While many specifics remain to be filled in, one message from the initial 40-page blueprint is loud and clear: we're all about Teacher Effectiveness and NO fluff! Memo to states: teacher effectiveness = higher student test scores. Little wiggle room available.
Reactions from the AFT and NEA were predictably negative.
It remains to be seen how quickly states get in line. While 21 states technically have the capacity to link teachers to student test scores, only three (Tennessee, Louisiana and Ohio) currently consider these data when evaluating teacher performance. So pretty much all states have their work cut out for them.
To hold schools and teachers accountable, the Department intends to tie efforts to identify the lowest performing teachers alongside efforts to turn around the bottom performing 5 percent of schools, setting in statute mechanisms that make it possible for districts to dismiss the lowest performing teachers in the lowest performing schools without all the time and paperwork.
But wait, something sounds all too familiar here. NCLB called for the same turn-around strategies for schools that didn't meet proficiency targets, but we know all too well that persistently failing schools rarely, if ever, were restructured or closed in the past eight years. So what's different this time around?
By having states focus on just the lowest 5 percent of schools, and not every school that persistently fails to meet progress measures (this added up to a third of all schools across the country), it may be more manageable for states to intervene when schools fail. A good, common sense move.