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Thompson: Aspen Institute Documents Flaws of Teacher Evaluation System

StressThe Aspen Institute study of  Washington D.C.'s controversial IMPACT evaluation system provides more evidence that it was not ready to be more than a pilot study. IMPACT only produced "a modest correlation" between the evaluators' judgments and value-added test score growth.  In addition, IMPACT imposed this intense stress and conflict on all educators in order to increase the percentage of teachers eligible for immediate termination from .2 to  3% -- something that could have been accomplished by sending a memo to principals instructing them to be less forgiving of their worst performers.  And even if the district now takes the time to correct IMPACT's flaws, how will it address its effect on the 700 teachers who were indicted as "minimally ineffective" under its not-ready-for-prime-time debut?- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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It's hard to get the timing right: some rush reforms in before they're really ready because they are motivated by the urgency of the disastrous situation some students are facing; others are much more patient, perhaps because they've become too comfortable with and willing to accept a disastrous situation for someone else's children. It is fundamental to life that (a) we don't have the perfect information that would help us make perfect decisions, and (b) we have to act anyway.

And too often, in education, we seem to rush headlong into "it's a miracle!" fads that are less successful than the dread "status quo" and just happen to put a lot of public money into private pockets. When paired with an unsuccessful "reform," that's worse than doing nothing. (For examples: Let's start with Edison Schools and work from there.) Do we have to "rush reforms" that badly? I would say plenty of prudence and skepticism are warranted.


If b) you have to act anyway, then act prudently. The first rule is "do no harm." IMPACT had the potnetial to do some good, but it is more likely to do great harm. When in doubt, don't flush generations of social science and the accumulated professional judgements down the toilet. I can't see how you can believe in the laws of supply and demand and not see these "reforms" as a recipe for an outmigration of talent out of the inner city. Implementing an evaluation system without compensating for intense concentrations of poverty? Its hard to defend rolling the dice hoping you'll get lucky on that one.

Caroline, I tend to see these mega-mistakes as the result of hubris. But you are right, profit is a huge factor. And they dare to blame teachers for being cautious!?!?

It keeps that more stress on the teachers.

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