A committee of U.S. senators quizzed state Education Commissioner John King on New York’s teacher evaluation system while he testified at a hearing about potential revisions to No Child Left Behind.
King appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Thursday, and urged lawmakers to emphasize early childhood education and teacher evaluations when considering reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, former President George W. Bush’s education law.
The law expired in 2007, and Congress has not yet acted to rewrite it, despite pushes from President Obama. Obama offered states waivers to get out from underneath the law’s rigorous standards for student test scores if they agreed to adopt some of the president’s “college- and career-readiness” standards. New York was one of the states whose waiver was approved.
“The central component of our waiver is the opportunity to recognize schools in which students are making good progress toward meeting standards of college- and career-readiness, as opposed to focusing exclusively on absolute performance,” King said during the hearing.
King detailed the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which nearly all school districts had adopted by last month’s deadline. New York City schools are still negotiating with local unions over a plan, and their missing the deadline cost the district $240 million in state funding.
King suggested including a framework for teacher evaluations in a revised version of the education law.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, commented that New York has struggled in adopting the evaluations: “The mayor of New York City, as I understand it, doesn’t think too much of it,” he said.
He asked King how the federal government can create an environment that would make New York more likely to succeed in its implementation.
“You’re right—it is a challenging thing to implement. It requires a significant culture change in schools and districts to do evalution well,” King said. “It would be helpful in the potential reauthorization to set a few clear, bright-line parameters, and then to give states flexibility to adapt those parameters to their context.”
He suggested such “parameters” should be including student performance in the evaluations and to making sure that performance evaluations are tied to employment decisions such as whether to award tenure or provide a raise. He said there should also be “data transparency” in showing
Alexander questioned King as to why states can’t develop the evaluation systems on their own.
“You’re a great big state,” Alexander said. “Why do i have to come from the mountains of Tennessee to tell New York that’s good for you? Why can’t you decide that for yourself?”
King argued that Congress should set national standards for evaluations.
“It’s about saying as a country that we believe that teacher and principal performance matters,” he said.
You can watch a video of the hearing here.
Or read his testimony here: