Union Chief Seeks to Overhaul Teacher Evaluation Process
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WASHINGTON -- Facing criticism that her union makes it too hard to get rid of bad teachers, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Tuesday announced a union-backed effort to develop a new model for how public school teachers should be evaluated, promoted and removed.
The effort will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federal government's special master for executive compensation.
In a speech at the National Press Club, Ms. Weingarten sought to present a more flexible, cooperative face for her union as she announced Mr. Feinberg's new role and called for sweeping changes in how school districts evaluate teachers and work with teachers' unions.
She scoffed at the predominant method of evaluating teachers -- visiting their classroom a few minutes each year and then giving an evaluation at year-end. Instead, she proposed a system of year-round evaluations as part of an effort to improve teaching and weed out ineffective teachers.
For years, her union and the larger National Education Association have been attacked by many conservatives and parents, who say those unions protect bad teachers, gum up the disciplinary process and resist change.
"We need to set high standards for students and teachers," Ms. Weingarten said. "This is the time to shed the old conflicts and come together."
"Our system of evaluating teachers has never been adequate," she said, adding that for too long it "has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving" teaching.
In some states, teachers have been criticized for opposing the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Ms. Weingarten said she was receptive to that, but she added that many other factors should be used, including classroom observations, portfolio reviews, self-evaluations, appraisals of lesson plans, as well as students' written work, projects and presentations.
She said student test scores should also be considered, not by comparing last year's test scores with this year's, but by assessing whether a teacher's students had shown improvement in the classroom during the school year.
Ms. Weingarten called for new "due process" procedures that might make it easier and faster to remove poorly performing teachers. Critics of the teachers' federation expressed skepticism, however, about whether it would ultimately agree to the far-reaching changes Ms. Weingarten proposed.
First Published January 13, 2010 2:00 am