Last week, New York State’s Supreme Court issued an important ruling on the state’s teacher evaluations. The aspect of the ruling that got the most attention was the proportion of evaluations – or “weight” – that could be assigned to measures based on state assessments (in the form of estimates from value-added models). Specifically, the Court ruled that these measures can only comprise 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, compared with the option of up to 40 percent for which Governor Cuomo and others were pushing. Under the decision, the other 20 percent must consist entirely of alternative test-based measures (e.g., local assessments).
Joe Williams, head of Democrats for Education Reform, one of the flagship organizations of the market-based reform movement, called the ruling “a slap in the face” and “a huge win for the teachers unions." He characterized the policy impact as follows: “A mediocre teacher evaluation just got even weaker."
This statement illustrates perfectly the strange reasoning that seems to be driving our debate about evaluations.