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New teacher evaluation method debated

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POSTED: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 7:00pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 7:52am

One new measure of education ranks the United States near the bottom in science, math and reading. And an area that’s coming under scrutiny in Texas is how we evaluate teachers. Education is one subject we can debate endlessly. But one thing everyone agrees on. We need to reward good teachers and find the poor ones. The latest world rankings are frankly embarrassing. Among 34 developed nations surveyed and tested, students in the United States came in 26th in math, 17th in reading and 21st in science. “The big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 PISA is straightforward and stark,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It is a picture of educational stagnation." “When you dig deep into those numbers, though,” says Linda Bridges, President of the American Federation of Teachers Texas branch. “ And you account for poverty, you see that the United States scores well above most countries.” And while we love to debate things like evolution or vouchers, they are simply running top notch public school systems. Nothing exotic, just first rate teachers, solid curricula and adequate funding. “And that’s what’s hurting us,” Bridges says, “is these other agendas, and other people’s interests that move us away from what’s really happening.” So here in Texas, we are looking at new ways to evaluate teachers. Right now, it’s frankly woefully inadequate. Largely, it’s based on one 45-minute observation in class, as much as 5 years apart. “You know, we don’t pick our assignments and we don’t pick our kids,” Bridges told me. “And we don’t have a lot of control over the resources we have. At the same time, it’s got to be fair.” So, is anyone on the School Board talking to teachers? “That’s a good question,” she laughed. “I think they’re talking to themselves a lot.”

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