TCPR: State Must Start Using Available Data to Distinguish Good Teachers from Bad

Press release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Jan. 11, 2010:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today released a policy brief examining the education reform proposals currently sought by Governor Phil Bredesen.

The governor issued a proclamation last Thursday calling a special session of the General Assembly to address certain education laws so that the state could seek nearly $500 million in federal “Race to the Top” education funding. The special session will begin on Tuesday, January 12.

The main two proposals focus on reforming the process by which teachers are evaluated and restructuring the funding mechanism for post-secondary institutions. Because they will have significant long-term consequences for the state, TCPR analyzed the two proposals.

The brief, Evaluating Education Reforms for the Extraordinary Session (pdf), lays out a methodology for rating teachers that complies with both the governor’s wishes and the “Race to the Top” grant application requirements. The methodology was developed by the nonprofit Education Consumers Foundation, whose president, Dr. John Stone, is a member of the TCPR board of scholars.

“The state must start using the large amount of data available to it to distinguish good teachers from bad, and take the appropriate steps to ensure that students are learning,” said Justin Owen, TCPR’s Director of Policy. “The methodology outlined in the brief provides a unique opportunity to truly determine a teacher’s effectiveness.”

The second part of the brief scrutinizes the plan to tie higher education funding to graduation rather than enrollment rates and the negative impact that could have. TCPR also encourages lawmakers to use caution and fiscal responsibility during the special session, rather than make potentially devastating changes just to seize one-time federal money.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes the prospect of federal tax dollars to create meaningful education reform, but if done right, the legislature can revolutionize the way teachers are evaluated—and students, teachers, parents and taxpayers will all benefit,” noted Owen.