Thursday, September 16, 2010

Implications of the DC primary on education

Mark and I have been talking a lot about education. Today Seyward Darby has an article on the implications of Michelle Rhee leaving. What struck me as most interesting is that there are three concerns raised:

1) The fate of the new teacher evaluation system

2) That performance pay, based on IMPACT score, might not go forward

3) There could be increased regulation of character schools

Mark has commented on issues with a focus on narrow methods of teaching evaluation. But I think it is safe to say that items 1 and 2 depend critically on the quality of the method used.

As for number 3, deregulated private educational entities have geenrated concerns as the quality of instruction is hard to measure.

So everything hinges on how good the IMPACT evaluation score is. Now, this score is a hybrid (as opposed to pure standardized test scores) so it might not be awful:

It rates its teachers based partly on how well they improve student learning from year to year, and partly on intensive classroom observation by their supervisors.

However, it does not address the concern about teachers learning to game the system. Many ranking systems work very well at first and then people learn to optimize against them. Just consider how many articles there are on how to improve your FICO score.

But the core ideas remain to find a way to measure teacher performance on some sort of low dimensional scale and to reduce regulation of private sector competitors. It is unclear that these approaches will get at the key issues, even if (due to an extraordinarily dysfunctional school system) they may produce some improvements in the Washington DC schools.

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