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Bloomberg ties test scores to teacher tenure

Here's an item from my colleague Nick Anderson on the national education beat.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who oversees city schools, said Wednesday morning in Washington that he has directed the nation's largest school system to ensure that principals use student test scores to evaluate beginning teachers who are up for tenure.

"It is an aggressive policy," Bloomberg, an independent who this year ran as a Republican for re-election, said in an appearance at the Democrat-leaning Center for American Progress. "But our obligation is to take care of our kids."

Bloomberg acknowledged that he did not consult with the teachers union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, before making his decision. He said union leaders knew his views on the matter.

Bloomberg was appearing with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others at the think tank. But Duncan sidestepped a question on whether he endorses the mayor's policy shift. "We'll see how it plays out there," Duncan said.

Duncan added: "I've said repeatedly that student achievement has to be part of how we evaluate teachers."

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: To clarify his position, Duncan said afterward through a spokeswoman that he believes "evaluations (which significantly factor in student achievement) should play a significant role in tenure decisions."

The mayor's announcement is part of a trend fomented by the Obama administration, to link teacher and student data in efforts to improve schools.

It is a sensitive issue for union leaders. They say they are not opposed in concept to using achievement as one of "multiple measures" to evaluate teachers. But they say that in many cases test scores can be used unfairly to judge teachers who are doing as much as they can to help disadvantaged students.

Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, an advocacy group for disadvantaged students, said that such students often are stuck with the least qualified and least effective teachers. Tenure, she said, is a key issue. Typically, gaining tenure means that beginning teachers are leaving probationary status and gaining due process rights to challenge moves to fire them.

"In most systems," Haycock said, "if you're still standing at the end of three years, you have a lifetime job."

By Washington Post editors  | November 25, 2009; 12:07 PM ET
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Bloomberg cannot unilaterally change the rules in midstream. Whether he is correct or not to include student test scores to evaluate non-tenured teachers is irrelevant. It's a change in working conditions without input/feedback from the union. That's a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

Posted by: phoss1 | November 25, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I just finished watching the event on the web, and it was worst than I would have expected. As phoos1 just wrote, Bloomberg can not just unilaterally change the collective bargaining agreement. Are we supposed to believe his statement that his lawyers said that they could win? (Bloomberg's body language and actual wording seem to indicate that he knows he's just using words as means of presenting a political argument, not as being factually accurate.

Also, Duncan made more misstatements of fact about Mastery Charter Schools than Newt Gingrich did on the same subject on Meet the Press. If reporters had fact-checked Gringrich, they could have then challenged Duncan.

And Kati Haycock of the Education Trust made the most unbelievable statement I've heard expressing her (and Rhee's) "Expectations!" school of reform, saying that the most effective method of closing the Achievement Gap has been "guidance to teachers about what to teach."

When "reformers" are so brazen about both the facts and the law, it makes it so much more difficult for reformers in the union to compromise on these dangerous issues.

Posted by: johnt4853 | November 25, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Student achievement is "reform" speak for high-stakes standardized test scores. High-stakes standardized test scores correlate most highly with socio-economic status. Michael Bloomberg and Arne Duncan are among the power brokers intent on destroying public education as we know it. They have no interest in the reality that public schools are WAY better than they are given credit for, and the fail to understand, to steal Jerry Bracey's words, that poverty is a condition like gravity that affects EVERYTHING. Between Duncan and Bloomberg they have NO knowledge of what actually goes on in a classroom from a teacher's perspective, and believe that the ONLY thing that matters is a standardized test score. Teachers everywhere need to beware of these so-called reformers. Their full-frontal assault on public education will lead to public schools being nothing more than a worker delivery system for multi-national corporations. Creative thinking will die and the United States will be the land of economic apartheid where the rich get it all, and the rest of us fight for scraps. That is not the United States I want to live in.

Posted by: seanmblack64 | November 25, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

How droll! The NYS Comptroller just issued an audit report stating that when the NYS Ed. Dept. finds that NY schools and districts have inflated test grading, it does nothing about it. Aside from rewarding adults for cheating on mandated test grading, what exactly are these bonuses (and teacher evaluations) possibly going to accomplish when the data upon which they are based is so flagrantly unreliable?

Arguing about the validity of any group of tests is frivolous when the tests' grading is totally compromised. Giving federal money to a state or large city district implicated in such a sham is even more frivolous and will waste both money and children's valuable school time.

Children, taxpayers and those who care about American competitiveness all deserve more.

Posted by: deealpert | November 26, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

this idea is almost too ridiculous for me to comment on. if all kids came to teachers from the same background, same abilities, and same capabiliities then i would say, sure, lets use test scores to evaluate teachers. but we all know that is not the case. this is just alot grandstanding about improving education by people who feel they have to say something!

Posted by: stayone | November 26, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

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