Posts Tagged ‘teacher evaluation’

PURE testimony on teacher evaluation in Chicago

Monday, November 7th, 2011

November 7, 2011

To the Illinois Performance Evaluation Advisory Council

PURE believes that an effective assessment and accountability system is essential to an excellent public education for all children. We support assessment and accountability systems which are built on high-quality learning standards, incorporate multiple measures of student progress over time, value local assessment, respect parental rights, are transparent to the public, and demonstrably support improved teaching and learning.

Unfortunately, we are moving farther and farther away from establishing such a system. The federal No Child Left Behind Act created a massive explosion of testing in our nation, exacerbating the misuse and overemphasis on standardized tests across the U.S. Despite campaign rhetoric about reducing the amount of standardized testing, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top and Blueprint for Education Reform have actually expanded the dependence on these unreliable and unfair measures by, among other things, demanding that states use standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

While state legislatures and boards of education are leaping onto the test-based evaluation bandwagon, parents throughout the country are saying no to more testing. 

  • We don’t trust the promise of “better tests” aligned with the Common Core standards.

  • We have learned that merit pay and other high-stakes test-based evaluation systems don’t improve learning.

  • Experts at the National Academy of Sciences and the Economic Policy Institute have cited the unreliability of value-added or “growth” measures in warnings about the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems.

  • We know that standardized tests are designed for specific purposes, and that test makers warn against using them in ways for which they are not intended.

In just the last two days, we’ve learned about the disastrous Tennessee teacher evaluation program and an open letter written by New York State principals opposed to a similar process they are being forced to carry out there. A while ago, we read about the teacher evaluation system in Montgomery County, Maryland, which is highly effective without using test score data. The district refused $12 million in Race to the Top funds because accepting the money would require a change in that policy and, according to the superintendent, “We don’t believe the tests are reliable. You don’t want to turn your school into a test factory.”

Chicago’s schools are already test factories. This proposal will make that terrible situation worse for our children. Let’s learn from other states’ mistakes, save our children and their teachers from the potentially disastrous consequences of bad policy making, and choose not to waste millions or perhaps billions of dollars on another failed experiment.

Instead of the test-driven strategies favored (and heavily promoted) by non-educators, we need to look towards a vision of education reform that is strongly rooted in democratic principles and supported by ample research. Our children deserve no less. We support the expansion of proven reforms, such as small classes, parent involvement, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum that connects learning to children's own lives, and evaluation systems with high-quality, multiple assessments.

Specifically, regarding state assessment and accountability systems, we recommend that they:

Require that states allow parents to opt their children out of any state or local standardized test.

Specify regular public review and revision of state learning standardsand related assessments.

Locate the key accountability elements at the local school level.

Bar the use of tests for any purpose different from that for which the test was explicitly designed.

Time to give your input into teacher evaluation in Illinois

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Sorry – several of these dates have already passed.

From the Illinois State Board of Education web site

Illinois is revamping teacher and principal evaluation – your input is needed!

Teachers and administrators (and others, I assume…) can weigh in on recommended changes to their evaluation systems at seven upcoming forums. An additional meeting in Chicago is still being scheduled. Meetings will be held from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the following cities:

October 5: Waukegan
Trapp Auditorium, Waukegan High School, 2325 Brookside Avenue

October 6: Elgin
Auditorium, Elgin High School, 1200 Maroon Drive

October 11: Lombard
Glenn Westlake Middle School, 1514 South Main Street

October 17: Belleville
Belleville-East Campus, 2555 West Boulevard

October 25: Marion
Marion High School, 1501 South Carbon Street

October 26: Rock Island
Little Theater, Rock Island High School, 1400 25th Avenue

October 27: Bloomington
Auditorium, Bloomington High School, 1202 East Locust Street

An additional forum will be held in Chicago from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.— exact date and site to be determined.

The 90-minute sessions will provide a chance for teachers and administrators to learn what the state’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) of educators and experts has recommended. Participants will have an opportunity to share their thoughts with leaders of the Illinois State Board of Education before the new rules are drafted.

Download the complete schedule PDF format

Space is limited!! Please RSVP here:

Check the PEAC website for information and updates:

Have a question or comment? Email us at

Recommended Pre-Readings


Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC)

Principal Evaluation Recommendations

Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) – Principal Subcommittee

Principal Evaluation Recommendations – Rules and State Models

Teacher Evaluation Recommendations

Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) – Teacher Subcommittee

Adminstrative Rules Recommendations for Teacher Evaluation Systems

For more information, please visit:

Online Feedback
If you are unable to attend any of the upcoming forums in person, please click here to give your feedback online.

Politics Tonight

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I will be on WGN/CLTV’s Politics Tonight show to discuss local teacher issues and what’s happening at the federal level with ESEA. Nuthin’ much, going on, right?

The show will air live on CLTV at 6 pm and 9:30 pm. It will also live stream on I’ll be able to post the show tomorrow.

Historic school reform or a distraction?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

From the way our esteemed Illinois politicians and their supporters have been preening the past couple of days, you’d think they had cured cancer or ended racism. Nope, it’s what they and the media have been relentlessly calling a “historic” new education reform law.

I haven’t been quite so impressed.

Here’s the letter I sent to the Sun-Times and Tribune today:

“Parents across Chicago are scratching our heads today wondering what all this “historic school reform law” hoopla is about.

Will the new school reform law provide schools with adequate funding? Illinois currently ranks 49th out of 50 states in paying its share of school funding, and 34th in per pupil spending, although our state is the seventh wealthiest in the nation.

Will the new law cut back the amount of testing in schools? Will we now offer our children more art, science, history, sports and other programs that have been lost as schools increasingly focus on test preparation?

Will our children’s teachers have enough supplies and equipment or more mentoring and high-quality professional development? Will classes be kept to an optimally small size? Will it help build trust among teachers, administrators, and parents?

Will our children be safer going to school? Will they have more support services to address their emotional needs or more after school and summer programs to keep them off the streets?

Will parents have more opportunities for involvement or a more respected voice in school decision making?

No. This law clearly fails to address the main concerns of parents about schools or the major areas where education researchers believe schools need to improve.

The new law will make it more difficult for teachers to strike. While no one wants a teachers’ strike, it’s been 24 years since the last strike in Chicago.

The new law will make student test scores a significant factor in teacher evaluations, even though research shows that judging teachers on test results is unreliable, ineffective in raising student achievement, and only serves to increase testing pressure. The new law also makes seniority less important in firing decisions. While no one wants their child to have a bad teacher, parents do want teachers with solid credentials and experience. Too often in the recent past, districts have fired excellent older teachers in what looks more like a cost-cutting move than an effort to place the “best and the brightest” in front of our children. We now worry that the most gifted potential teachers will simply choose another profession.

For all these reasons, the new “reform” law looks more like an attempt to distract parents and the public from the real work of school improvement, and not a historic step for education.


One more point. Much is being made of the “collaborative” nature of the process that created this law. Not exactly. First, Advance Illinois and Stand for Children tried to push their own, union-destroying version of the law through during the 2010 Christmas holidays via a new “Education Reform” Committee set up for that purpose by Speaker Mike Madigan. To their credit, a few lawmakers refused to play along with that, but the message was very clear that the $600,000 that SFC dropped on the November state legislative election was going to buy them something very much like what they initially demanded.

The meetings held to hammer out the final law took place in Springfield over the course of weeks, so the only groups that had a real voice in the process were those with the money to have a team of lobbyists there at all times. The  Tribune reported, for example, that SFC hired a dozen lobbyists to manage their interests.

So, is it real collaboration when only heavily resourced groups can participate? And is it really collaboration when one of the parties has a gun to its head?

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
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.