Valerie Strauss asked a fairly simple question of the White House and the Education Department: Are you aware that one consequence of the policy requiring test results in teacher evaluation is that many teachers' evaluations are based on subjects or students they don't teach.
For example, in New York City middle schools, it’s been estimated that over 60 percent of New York City teacher evaluations are out-of-subject. An art teacher would be evaluated in part on student math scores. Are you aware of this state-level consequence of federal policy and do you think it is fair to teachers?
The White House response was, "Go ask the Education Department."
Strauss presents the entire USED answer without comment. I would like to go ahead and present some comment.
The feds open with the right general sorts of noises. Parents have a right to know how their kids are doing, and student performance should be assessed because otherwise some groups will be swept under the rug (and this has been the narrative for so long that you would think, by now, the USED would be holding up some students that they finally found hiding under a rug and hollering, "See, we never would have found these kids except for The Test" but no, that hasn't happened).
After "rug" the next sentence is "Communities deserve accountable schools" which somehow thrown into this same paragraph as if assessing student progress and evaluating schools and teachers are exactly the same subject, as if there were nothing at all to discuss about how directly student achievement is a straight-ahead measure of school effectiveness. Anyway, "multiple measures" in italics and underlined. "Only a handful of states" link non-tested subject teachers to test scores, which just seems unlikely, given that the feds required all states to use test scores in the waivers, and in fact spanked Washington State for refusing to do so.
The response now moves to the DC Public Schools as an exemplar, and when that happens you know you're in the weeds. Maybe you're in the weeds with an intern who was assigned this response and doesn't know any schools except DCPS. The DC bullet points discuss the use of the state tests in teacher assessments, while ignoring the question of whether those were used for teachers of non-tested subjects or not.
Then USED quotes from its own ESEA Flexibility Policy Document, which does include a part that says you can use another assessment as long as it -- holy crap!! -- after developing, piloting and implementing, it must do all of the following--
1) be used for continuous improvement of instruction
2) rank and sort students into at least three different levels
3) I have to just copy this one because it's such bureaucratic gobbledeegook
use multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth for all students (including English Learners and students with disabilities), and other measures of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous teacher performance standards, teacher portfolios, and student and parent surveys);
4) evaluate teachers and principals on regular basis
5) provide clear, timely and useful feedback for instruction and PD
6) must be used as part of personnel decisions
Oh, and all personnel must be trained on the system. Annnnd the data must insure that poor and minority children are not taught by a disproportionate number of inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers.
First of all, can we please note that the current Big Standardized Test system in place does not meet these requirements. I mean-- clear, useful, and timely feedback? Would that be the part where we aren't allowed to see the test and get nothing back but raw scores and don't get them till the following school year? I am also wondering if the prohibition against inexperienced and unqualified teachers for poor kids would bar TFA temps from working in high-poverty areas? Ha! Of course not.
Second-- this is the solution? The art teacher in my building is supposed to do all of this, including training all of us in how the art assessment works, on top of making sure that art students are sorted into "Great," "Okay," and "Sucky" because an important part of all education is ranking students into winners and losers.
I want to point out that the Education Department NEVER ANSWERED STRAUSS'S QUESTION!!
What they did was carefully outline what their regulations say could be happening, maybe. They did not say if they have any knowledge of that actually happening. Nor did they acknowledge the real-world conclusion of many states which is "We can either spend a bunch of everybody's time and money working up these assessments or we can just use the BS Tests in the formula, since the USED is clearly perfectly happy with that."
The Duncan USED is an abject failure in many ways, but that failure is facilitated by their absolute refusal to confront-- or even see-- the actual consequences of their ill-considered amateur hour policies. In particular, their insistence on putting the BS Tests in the drivers seat, in making those tests the focus and purpose of education, has been hugely destructive to public education and the teaching profession. Their continued attempts to paper that over with pretty words shows that either they are truly, deeply clueless about what they've done, or they understand perfectly and are just hugely cynical. I would ask them which is the case, but if a major education writer from a major American newspaper can't get an answer, I don't imagine I'd do any better.