Monday, October 12, 2009

Way to go, Joe

SB19 passed this weekend, for which we should all be grateful.

SB19 unwound a previous bad law that was hurting every public education student in California. Some time ago, we wrote into law a "firewall" that prohibited using test scores to evaluate teacher performance. I won't debate why the law passed, but I will say plainly that I'm pleased it was repealed.

There are two big wins here. One is financial. The Obama administration has earmarked $4.5B for improving schools. One of the specific requirements to be eligible for that funding was -- you guessed it -- that the recipients had to permit the use of test scores in teacher evaluation. Even if it were only for mercenary reasons, it was a good idea to pass this law. The State of California simply can't afford not to be eligible for this funding.

The second reason this is good news is just plain common sense. Evaluating employees can be very difficult. Just because something is difficult doesn't mean you shouldn't try, though. In private industry, good companies devote tremendous effort to understanding who is contributing, who isn't making the grade, and what we can do to help those who are struggling to learn from those who are stars. Teaching is on of the most important professions. Wouldn't it stand to reason that we want to use every tool available to figure out who is doing well and who needs more coaching?

To be clear, I don't think test scores should be the be-all, end-all for evaluations. It should only be a piece of the puzzle. Still, this opens the door for a meaningful dialogue to evaluate employees on the basis of quantifiable data along side the more subjective observations. Thank goodness for common sense.

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