Bizarre NY Times Op-Ed on Teacher/Principal Accountability

Did anyone else think that Deborah Kenny’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times on teacher evaluations -- called "Want to Ruin Teaching? Give Ratings" --  a trifle bizarre?  It’s not weird that Kenney, a chief executive with the NYC charter network Harlem Village Academies, has a problem with proposals to link student test data to teacher evaluations. Lots of people have problems with that. What’s weird is her distortion of the proposals themselves. Surely she knows better.

In the op-ed, Kenney explains that she’s always been
a strong proponent of teacher accountability. I’ve advocated for ending tenure and other rules that get in the way of holding educators responsible for the achievement of their students. Indeed, the teachers in my schools —Harlem Village Academies— all work with employment-at-will contracts because we believe accountability is an underlying prerequisite to running an effective school. The problem is that, unlike charters, most schools are prohibited by law from holding teachers accountable at all.
Her problem, then, isn’t that teachers’ job security will be at the mercy of  the swings and arrows of unreliable data produced by standardized tests. It’s that “having the government evaluate individual teachers…is a terrible idea that undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers.”

So, it’s the imposition of the big bad government over the sanctity of the cloistered schoolhouse. Kenny writes,
Some of the new government proposals for evaluating teachers, with their checklists, rankings and ratings, have been described as businesslike, but that is just not true. Successful companies do not publicly rate thousands of employees from a central office database; they don’t use systems to take the place of human judgment. They trust their managers to nurture and build great teams, then hold the managers accountable for results.
Which government proposals? Can we have an example, please? Many states are proposing the use of student growth in rating teacher effectiveness. But  I don’t know of one that delegates that use of data to some matrix-like central headquarters. In New Jersey, for example, the new teacher and principal tenure reform bill is intended to empower principals (who also are subject to new, more rigorous evaluations)  by giving them more authority and its requisite corollary, accountability, which is exactly what Kenny is promoting.

In addition, Kenny presents these value-added teacher evaluations as though the whole ball of wax rests on standardized test data.  Again, I don’t know of any state that says  that teachers should be evaluated solely on student growth data. In New Jersey, Gov. Christie pushed hard for 50% of evaluations being tied to student longitudinal growth data. Not a chance.  NJ’s new compromise legislation calls for the use of “multiple measures,” and nobody is sure how that is going to work. Certainly, though, it leaves lots of room for other less quantifiable factors.

Why would Kenny distort the balanced use of data, along with other equally important measures, into “government-run teacher evaluation bureaucracy will make it impossible to attract great teachers and will diminish the motivation of the ones we have?”  I don’t get it.

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