The missing link – student data and teacher performance

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Dan Willingham’s good piece in the Boston Globe on what makes for effective accountability in our schools chided the lack of detail behind the Obama administration’s Race to the Top criteria seeking to “hold teachers accountable for student scores.”

There are ways of making accountability work. The two key elements are evaluations that take place over long periods of time, to increase stability, and evaluations that are conducted by people who are knowledgeable and are known by teachers to be knowledgeable. Unfortunately, neither element is part of the Obama administration’s plans.

Data is super-important, but how we use it matters. So where does MA stand on the use of data, you might ask. The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a national group that promotes “the availability and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement.” A recent DQC report underscores that Massachusetts does pretty well, thank you. We have many of the elements required for data-driven reform (we score 9 out of 10 on the DQC checklist). For map junkies, the site offers a very nice one showing how MA stacks up to other states.

It shows that MA is missing one element on the DQC list of desirables: the ability to link student achievement and teacher performance – again, as Willingham points out something that cannot simply be put out there but would have to be implemented very carefully to avoid what he calls the “RMV” effect.

It would be interesting to see how MA represented plans for closing this gap on its Race to the Top application. I do hope that Ed Secretary Reville, Commissioner Chester and Board Chair Banta are reaching out to Dr. Willingham.