Close Reading of Arne Duncan’s Feb. 7 Speech: Two more points

This series of posts responds to excerpts from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech “Fighting the Wrong Education Battles” on Feb. 7 to the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  The bolded parts are Sec. Duncan’s speech.  The plain text is my response.

“But I was literally stunned when I discovered that several states had laws on the books that actually prohibited using student achievement in teacher evaluation. Think about how crazy that is—and what a perverse signal that sends about the entire teaching profession.”

I like the word “perverse”– I personally think it perverse when Teacher A, asked to take a class load with a really struggling cluster of English-Language Learners, and Teacher B, who will have no clusters this year, are both evaluated on test scores.  Perhaps you will adjust your metrics to account for this, but based on Pascale Mauclair, I think not.

“Just last week I met with Dru Davison, a fantastic music teacher in Memphis. Arts teachers there were frustrated because they were being evaluated based solely on school-wide performance in math and English. So he convened a group of arts educators to come up with a better evaluation system.

After Dru’s committee surveyed arts teachers in Memphis, they decided to develop a blind peer review evaluation to assess portfolios of student learning. It has proved enormously popular—so much so that Tennessee is now looking at adopting the system statewide for arts instructors. If we are willing to listen, and to do things differently, the answers are out there.”

I have sat with arts educators as they cried over the fact they are required to document how they meet EPAS or Common Core standards at the cost of their own standards.  It saddens me.  I question, however, this solution of Dru Davison.  Don’t test scores have to be part of teacher evaluation?  Isn’t that part of RTTT?  Isn’t that, again, why you rejected Montgomery County Schools?

I would love a portfolio system for all teachers.  That might allow more of the project-based and collaborative work that I believe enhances the skills Americans bring to the world economy. I would love for test scores to be used to diagnose and differentiate and not to punish.  I would love for us to work collectively to challenge the status-quo without demeaning teachers, denigrating experience, and elevating compliance to a testing system.

You might know that if you listened to all of us better.

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