Blog: The Educated Reporter

Other thoughts from Vanderbilt.

More thoughts from the Vanderbilt conference on teacher effectiveness.

—Presenters brought up the difficulty, in value-added systems, in determining the teacher of record for a given student; they did not, however, offer much comfort in the way of solutions. This is a fine point always worth

—Nearly all the districts you hear about that have experimented with merit pay are relatively large. Reporters should not ignore what is (and is not) being done for and by small districts in the implementation of Race to the Top and other reforms.

—Jeanne Burns of the Louisiana Board of Regents talked about the state’s value-added system designed to measure teacher preparation programs. One education school, she said, looked good overall, but their graduates did not get good results in elementary school language arts. The obvious question is: then what?

—Asked what happens when the objective data from student tests conflicts with the results of evaluations, Tony Bagshaw of Battelle for Kids, which cosponsored the conference, said, “Folks, that’s gonna be a real challenge in the system.” Jason Kamras of the D.C. Public Schools said that district averages the objective and subjective. What does your district do, or plan to do?

—According to a study by Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, 60 percent of special education teachers agreed that achievement gains for their students should be a component of evaluation, but only 21 percent said standardized test scores should be a component. Most said that progress on the IEP should be considered. The complexities of special education and assessment are always worth considering, and there is no exception when it comes to merit pay.

—Analyses that have shown strong relationships between evaluation and value-added results in elementary school have not necessarily shown the same connection at the high school level.

—A recurring theme was the inability of principals to effectively oversee the evaluation and professional development of every employee in their buildings. This, people, is a story-ready topic.

—And while the Vanderbilt conference did not address the hiring process, I’ll continue to emphasize how little school systems do to ensure quality at the front end. Take a look at this McKinsey & Co. report that just came out.