Race to the muddle

Hundreds of New York principals are protesting plans to use test scores to evaluate principals and teachers, reports the New York Times. To qualify for Race to the Top funds, the state put together a new evaluation system.

Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight.

Delaware, one of the first states to get Race to the Top funds, also has rushed through “ludicrous initiatives,” writes Hube at The Colossus of Rhodey.

Administrators, who’ve evaluated countless teachers through the years, are required to attend “training” sessions to … evaluate teachers.

Teachers will support a fair evaluation system, he writes.

. . .  why not take a few master teachers from each subject area and pay them to, say, three times a year visit the classrooms of district teachers for the latter’s evaluations? . . .  not only would these evaluators be experienced teachers, they also know the subject area as well. . . . I bet this idea’d be a heck of a lot cheaper.

Teachers and their unions should rethink their lockstep support of Democrats, Hube writes. “George W. Bush was blasted by these folks for No Child Left Behind, but Obama’s initiative is NCLB on steroids.”


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  1. bill eccleston says:

    Let’s hope this “Revolt of the Principals” spreads. Here in Rhode Island where I teach, our building administrators are faced with the same Race to the Top mandated teacher evaluation system. It is truly a Soviet-style bureaucratic monster. (I would love to have an old “Kremlinologist” examined these systems!) Me, I have had to drop all pretense of being a well-rounded teacher. All of my colleagues have.The new system has made the imperative absolutely clear: teach to the test or lose your job. It is miserable! Every day now is a test prep day1 One fellow teacher of mine coined the term “Drone School” to describe the phenomenon. I think that is a stroke of genius. Drone School is a rotten place. The teachers hate it, the administrators hate it, and the students hate it. And I mean “hate” in its strongest emotional sense. As we are beginning to see in New York, Race to the Top is leading us toward an explosion. Certainly it is putting the Democratic Party at risk in 2012 as thousands of teachers like me, who previously supported it, will be sitting this election out so long as Obama retains Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. And we are equally fed up and feeling very revolutionary toward our state and national union leadership who are still in bed with him and Obama. We have to get rid of them, too. So I hope the revolt spreads. I think the growing disgust with Race to the Top will rather rapidly progress from letters of protest to acts of civil disobedience. Parents will inevitably catch on, too. Drone School is simply an awful place to lock up a kid in.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:


    I don’t doubt that Drone School is a place hated by all. So I suppose one question is, “Are they learning more?” A second would be, “Are they learning more that is useful?” We know that in the past many many people who entered kindergarten left school without being able to read, write, or understand numbers very well.

  3. I’m with Bill. I also teach a drone school. brutal for all.

  4. You know, I used to hate the ideas of national teachers’ unions because I thought they were a waste. Now with bullcr*p like RTTP and Core Standards the unions are actually needed. Now, if only the NEA and AFT would push hard against these new changes like every single member wants them to.

  5. Oh, from personal experience, I had an observation recently and was spoke with my observer (asst. principal) about the new system. He informed me that comments like “Students respect each other” must be backed up with multiple observations during that single class… for example “Ralphie sneezed and five students said “Bless you”.”
    Considering we use Danielson and there’s four domains split into what, a total of 20 or so indicators, and any comment must be backed up by multiple observations, its no wonder he was typing madly away during the whole 80 minute lesson. Actually, I’m not sure if he got to see any of the lesson itself since he was so busy observing student behavior, wait time, and displays around the classroom.

  6. The word that comes to mind is “tyranny”. Our little district in CA, nominally “independent”, seems to be falling in lockstep with Arnie Duncan’s half-baked, education-destroying blueprint. Duncan’s been good at gaining control, but he doesn’t know what to do with that control. I have a thousand cogent arguments against the new policies, but my superiors won’t hear them –because who am I compared to the great national leaders? Their authority, specious though it be, crushes all dissent.

  7. I have to wonder whether the first large crop of teachers that will be dismissed due to the new regulations will result in a major court case. It almost seems that this is the type of stuff that tenure was originally designed to protect teachers from.

  8. They tried the teachers evaluating teachers thing. It was a program called TAP. -> http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Fixing-Teacher-Evaluation.aspx We tried this in my schools back home but what it ended up doing was creating tension between teachers. The “master” teachers complained that they lost time with their own students. They wanted more time to teach their subjects. They also complained that their peers didn’t treat them as they had before and thus it strained staff relationships. After just a few years the district cut the program and put teachers back teaching.