Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Waiver States, More Time for Teacher Evaluations

States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.

According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.

States were supposed to implement teacher evaluations systems in the coming year as part of their waiver requirements. At the same time, those states also were expected to put in place assessments aligned to “college and career ready” standards, as The Huffington Post reports in a thorough recap of the complexity around the NCLB waiver program.

In a blog post about the postponement, Duncan wrote: “I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more. “

This announcement comes as two polls show the public already is more concerned about federal involvement in education while also expressing concern about standardized testing.

In fact, at an event held by Gallup and PDK International on Wednesday to release the results of the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup poll, panelists said something needed to be done to allay these fears about Common Core and federal interference.

Three out of five respondents to the PDK/Gallup Poll opposed the Common Core. Of those, two-thirds said they disapprove of it because it limits teachers’ flexibility in the classroom.

The panelists discussing the results were quick to point to one perceived culprit: the federal government. In the minds of many people, the Common Core standards have been “federalized,” noted National School Boards Association executive director Thomas Gentzel.

Even more importantly, said Education Trust president Kati Haycock, the confluence of standards, new assessments and teacher evaluations all rushing to implementation has alienated teachers and parents.

“There wasn’t enough careful thinking of timelines across implementation of ed reforms – that’s a huge mistake that needs to be fixed,” she said on Wednesday.

Gentzel said edicts from the U.S. Department of Education haven’t lessened the perception of federal overreach.

“There is the feeling (among local school boards and districts) that the U.S. Department of Education is well outside of its lane in terms of dictating what schools should be able to do,” he said. It’s particularly true of smaller districts that don’t have the capacity to implement education reform in ways the department favors, he added.

Nonetheless, the panel was in agreement that the federal role in education is necessary to guarantee equity so some children won’t be left behind because of poverty and race. And equity is an issue in how the Common Core standards are implemented, Haycock noted. “Having common standards is critical to ensuring all students — not just some — reach their promise,” she said.

EWA held a session on how to report on the NCLB waivers at its National Seminar at Vanderbilt University. Read Colorado Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia’s blog post about it.

Also check out Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn’s report on the two polls.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday also fulminated about the federal government’s role in the Common Core at EWA’s National Seminar, while Drew University professor Patrick McGuinn looked at the politics around it.



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