October 11, 2011
"When done correctly, evaluation with tools and supports for teachers can lead toward a path of vibrant instruction. When done incorrectly, it becomes just a human resources sorting mechanism that devalues teachers, limits their growth and undercuts our children's education."
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers
On Harkin-Enzi Reauthorization of ESEA Bill
WASHINGTON—There is widespread agreement that No Child Left Behind needs to be overhauled. NCLB's broken accountability system has led to an overemphasis on testing and sanctioning schools rather than improving teaching and learning.
The Harkin-Enzi proposal attempts to address a broken accountability system and acknowledges the importance of adopting higher standards, including the Common Core State Standards.
The AFT has a long history of embracing change and reform, from Al Shanker's support for education reform after the "A Nation At Risk" report to our embrace of focusing on teacher development and evaluation as a means to improve instruction, starting with the January 2010 unveiling of our proposal, http://www.aft.org/pdfs/teachers/improvemodelwhitepaper011210.pdf, now being used by more than 100 school districts.
The Harkin-Enzi bill also addresses teacher evaluation, a new area in federal education law. When done correctly, evaluations with tools and supports for teachers can lead toward a path of vibrant instruction. When done incorrectly, it becomes just a human resources sorting mechanism that devalues teachers, limits their growth and undercuts our children's education. We need to heed the lessons of school districts like New Haven, Conn., and the countries that out-perform us to get this very critical human resources tool right so evaluations can inform instruction and learning. Valid and reliable teacher development and evaluation systems should be based on multiple measures, not just test scores, and should provide teachers with the feedback, tools and conditions they need for continuous improvement.
This is a lengthy bill that will require much analysis. The AFT and our members will work throughout the process to ensure that a reauthorized ESEA bill will make a positive difference in teaching and learning.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.