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Across the country, nearly all teachers get passing grades

Even with revamped evaluations, most are deemed satisfactory

By Jenny Anderson
New York Times

Across the country, education reformers and their allies in both parties have revamped the way teachers are graded, abandoning methods under which nearly everyone was deemed satisfactory, even when students were falling behind.

More than half the states now require new teacher evaluation systems.

The changes, already under way in some places, are intended to provide meaningful feedback and, critically, to weed out weak performers. And here are some of the early results:

•  In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations.

• In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”

•  In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.

“It is too soon to say that … it’s all been for nothing,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and policy organization. “But there are some alarm bells going off.”

The new systems generally rate teachers on a combination of student progress, including their test scores, and observations by principals or others.

Principals, who are often responsible for the personal-observation part of the grade, generally are not detached managerial types and can be loath to give teachers low marks.

But even the part of the grade that was intended to be objective, how students perform on standardized tests, has proved squishy. In part, this is because tests have changed so much in recent years that administrators have been unwilling to set the bar too high for teachers. In many states, consecutive “ineffective” ratings are grounds for firing.

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