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Union head to propose tying test scores, teacher evaluations

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By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The president of the nation's second-largest teachers union is proposing a new way to incorporate student test scores into teacher evaluations and has asked a well-known mediator to develop methods of expediting disciplinary cases against teachers, according to the text of a speech made public Monday night.

Randi Weingarten of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers plans to deliver the speech Tuesday. Union officials describe it as a major effort to address flash points in labor-management relations.

The AFT, Weingarten said, wants "a fair, transparent and expedient process to identify and deal with ineffective teachers. But [we] know we won't have that if we don't have an evaluation system that is comprehensive and robust and really tells us who is or is not an effective teacher."

Weingarten, also a key player in the District's drawn-out teacher contract talks, outlined a four-step approach to teacher evaluations: States should adopt standards for what teachers should know and be able to do; teachers should be assessed through multiple measures, including student test scores that gauge individual academic progress; administrators should be held accountable for putting the standards into motion; and teachers should receive help through mentoring and professional development.

On discipline, Weingarten said mediator Kenneth R. Feinberg has agreed to help the AFT develop protocols for handling allegations of teacher misconduct. Feinberg was special master of the Sept. 11, 2001, victim compensation fund and is special master for executive compensation for the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

"Too often, due process can become glacial process," Weingarten said. "We intend to change that."

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents several urban systems where the AFT has affiliates, said Weingarten "should be applauded" for being open to the use of student test data in teacher evaluations. "It is a difficult step for them," he said.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement: "Randi is really showing courage by raising these issues." A spokeswoman for the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, the largest teachers union, had no immediate comment on the AFT proposals.

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said Weingarten's stance on teacher quality seems realistic because the Obama administration is pushing in the same direction. "When a Democratic administration, which obviously is the only horse the union has to ride, is pushing these kind of reforms, you have to go with the flow," Domenech said.

Please read Jay Mathews' blogpost on Weingarten's speech on Class Struggle.

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