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."
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