Slow down the “hilarity” in Illinois – hearing today

“This would all be hilarious except that it can cost people their jobs.”

Michael Winerip in yesterday’s New York Times

Today is the local Chicago hearing on a proposed new teacher and principal evaluation plan. The meeting begins at 5 pm at Lane Tech (details here).

To help you get a feeling for what’s at stake, read this NYT article by Michael Winerip about the mess in Tennessee, a Race to the Top “winner” which has already implemented its new system. Like the system Illinois is proposing, Tennessee school principals must use student test scores to judge teachers:

(T)he state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores.

“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”

Several teachers without scores at Oakland Middle School conferred. “The P. E. teacher got information that the writing score was the best to pick,” said Jeff Jennings, the art teacher. “He informed the home ec teacher, who passed it on to me, and I told the career development teacher”…

It’s a bit like Vegas, and if you pick the wrong academic subject, you lose and get a bad evaluation. While this may have nothing to do with academic performance, it does measure a teacher’s ability to play the odds. There’s also the question of how a principal can do a classroom observation of someone who doesn’t teach a classroom subject….

This would all be hilarious except that it can cost people their jobs.

Not to mention what it does to the quality of education.

Here’s a summary of the Illinois proposal from the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which is holding tonight’s meeting.

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.