A number of American Federation of Teachers affiliates across the country–D.C., Pittsburgh, Colorado, Baltimore–have embraced contracts or state laws that tie teacher tenure and performance ratings to student test scores. To date, the National Education Association, however–the larger union–has been reluctant to do so.
That's why the news out of Wisconsin this morning is interesting. The state's NEA affiliate, under pressure from Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has released a proposal of what it terms "bold reforms." The union is willing to make two significant compromises:
- Support the creation of a state-wide teacher evaluation system that takes student test score data into account
- Support some use of value-added analysis, a controversial statistical equation used to estimate the effect of a teacher on his or students' academic "growth"
There are many other elements of the proposal that will disappoint reformers looking to make it easier to remove bad teachers from the classroom. Some reformers prefer to evaluate all teachers, even tenured ones, every single year; the Wisconsin union plan would evaluate tenured teachers only once every three years. A bad evaluation would trigger a second evaluation the next year; a second bad score would lead to the teacher either entering a three-year peer assistance program or losing their job. Those are two very different outcomes, and the union wants the crucial details to remain subject to locally-negotiated contracts.
The proposal could be compared to Colorado's "Great Teachers and Leaders Bill," SB191, which passed with the support of that state's small AFT affiliate. After implementation, Colorado will evaluate all teachers annually and effectively strip tenured teachers of due process protections if they earn two bad evaluations in a row, leaving it up to principals and superintendents whether to remediate or fire the teacher in question.
While we're on the subject of Wisconsin, I find Scott Walker sort of terrifyingly simple-minded but charismatic. His education platform is basically Race to the Top plus vouchers while somehow massively cutting education budgets. (Huh?) He is especially heinous, though, on another one of my pet issues, mass transit. Here's one of his campaign season ads.