The President of United Teachers of Los Angeles is calling for a boycott of the LA Times over its story about the use of test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Throw in recent comments by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the issue, and you have a wonderful three-way battle on the Left amongst the media, the union, and the Administration.
The bottom line seems to be that the UTLA and their allies in the broader teachers’ union movement do not want to hear any discussion of objective measures in evaluating teachers. To them, the issue remains that there is no problem in education that more taxpayer money, for their members, won’t solve. Remember, “it’s for the children”. Use of tests, along with efforts to reign in benefit programs and reform teacher tenure, have also been met by the unions with fierce resistance.
But when the ground on the Left starts to shift under them, the unions may be in trouble. Secretary Duncan has supported the use of test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness. The LA Times, certainly no conservative mouthpiece, seems to suggest that it’s not a bad idea. With friends like this, who needs those tenure opposed, charter school supporting, test score using conservatives?
But is it really liberal or conservative or just common sense? Those of us who work in the private sector are evaluated every day. My ability to retain my job is not based on how many years I have had it, but on how I am serving my customers. Customers look at results and costs and evaluate to make a determination whether to continue to use my services. These evaluations can also point to areas where I can better serve my customers.
As parents, taxpayers and, dare I say customers, of public education, we should have that same ability with our children’s education. Test scores alone do not tell you the whole story of a teacher’s effectiveness. However, the fact that all of the children have smiles on their faces in the classroom does not mean there is real learning going on. We need some objective measures to determine the quality of the education our children are getting. A single year‘s test scores may be an aberration, but over time trends can be identified and corrective measures taken.
In an era when education funding is under pressure and the public is reluctant to support more bonds or parcel taxes to fund it, why do the teachers unions continue to refuse to give parents a way to make informed evaluations? After all, it’s for the children. Isn’t it?