New Teacher Project’s Take on Teacher Evaluation–AFT Comments

The New Teacher Project is part of a chorus of national education-policy organizations that have sung the same tune on teacher appraisal, supporting a heavy stress on students’ achievement-test results in the evaluation of teachers. That orientation was much in evidence when a New Teacher Project leader testified recently before the Texas Senate Education Committee.

But TNTP’s just-published guidelines for teacher evaluation do have some points of agreement with the reform ideas promoted by the American Federation of Teachers. For instance, as AFT President Randi Weingarten said approvingly today, “The New Teacher Project’s guidelines…call for the use of multiple measures of teacher practice and student learning.”

However, despite the common ground on “multiple measures,” TNTP and AFT still differ sharply on the use of test scores as the dominant measure of teacher effectiveness. As Weingarten also said today: “While we welcome this willingness to move beyond test scores in measuring achievement, we are very concerned that the guidelines place too much emphasis on test scores, both as a proxy for student learning and as a measure of teacher practice. AFT believes that basing 60 to 70 percent of a teacher’s rating solely on test scores puts too much weight on such data. School districts should not assign a particular percentage to any aspect of teacher evaluation until the specific measures have been collaboratively developed and tried. Setting percentages before we have identified the best measures for teaching is educationally unsound.”

Weingarten’s response succinctly recaps AFT’s stance on teacher evaluation and deserves repeating here: “AFT supports a continuous improvement model for teacher development and evaluation. The goal is to have evidence-based evaluations that take into account the complex skills and knowledge that the teaching profession demands. Since we introduced this model in January, more than 50 AFT local unions have been working in collaboration with their school administrators on their versions of it. Our approach includes regular, rigorous reviews by trained evaluators based on professional teaching standards, best practices and multiple measures of effectiveness, including student achievement. The goal is to help promising teachers improve, enable good teachers to become great, and identify those teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom at all.”