Bottom-up creation of new teacher evaluation systems unlikely in Ohio

Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy just released a proposal for ???America's Teacher Corps,??? a federally funded program that would recognize highly effective teachers in Title I schools, award them a salary bonus ($10,000), and give them a ???portable credential??? transferrable from state to state so as to encourage the best teachers to flow to the highest-need schools. Perhaps most important, ATC would encourage states and districts to develop metrics to identify highly effective teachers in the first place. (All exciting stuff.)

The authors of the paper are spot-on in pointing out the rationale for such a program. There are general problems with the profession not recruiting the best and brightest, being plagued with high turnover, inequitable distribution of talent, etc. The ATC would minimize credentialing barriers. Ohio needs this desperately, as it doesn't always grant reciprocity for out-of-state teachers ??? i.e. making Teach For America alums jump through certification hoops regardless of prior classroom experience/performance.

Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat has a good write-up about it. He also expresses concern over a few ???potential pitfalls,??? among them the fact that a program like ATC would rely on districts having valid and reliable teacher evaluation systems.

Which is where the excitement stops.

The paper suggests that teachers will be advocates within their districts for the creation of evaluation systems that would make them eligible for the program.

We believe that the incentives of extra compensation, a portable credential, and national recognition??? will motivate teachers to encourage the school districts that employ them to institute systems for documenting their performance that comply with the ATC requirements.

And

We envision a scenario whereby excellent teachers who are ineligible for the ATC because they serve in districts that have not established an acceptable evaluation system will become advocates within their own districts to establish such a system, or they will migrate to districts in which their teaching excellence can be recognized and rewarded.???

Call me Debbie Downer, but Ohio hasn't exactly been open toward teacher evaluation systems linked to student performance. The Dayton Education Association walked away from a potential $5 million in Race to the Top dollars, no doubt because they couldn't stomach this provision. Lawmakers wouldn't even consider a bill last fall that included tying student test scores to teacher evaluations. And, pardon the simplicity of this point, but if only the top quartile of teachers would win the bonus, that leaves a much larger number of teachers who will fight rigorous evaluations systems that would shed light on student academic growth (or lack thereof). I love the idea of an ATC, but unless we actually mandate states and districts to create evaluation systems based on student performance (Obama, please do), it seems a far stretch that teachers will rise up and request it.

-Jamie Davies O'Leary

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