The president’s favorite think tank wants to improve teacher quality but is less clear about how its proposals differ from policies already in place. “Interest is intensifying in how to go beyond current measures of teacher qualifications to measures that more closely evaluate teachers’ effectiveness in relation to student learning,” the Center for American Progress (CAP ) notes. “However, existing federal, state, and local policies for defining and measuring teacher quality rely almost exclusively on classroom observations by principals that differentiate little among teachers and offer little useful feedback, on the one hand, or teachers’ course-taking records plus paper-and pencil tests of basic academic skills and disciplinary subject matter knowledge that are poor predictors of later effectiveness in the classroom, on the other.”
The Center is particularly enthusiastic about the Performance Assessment for California Teachers. “Launched in 2002 and now used by 33 teacher education programs in the state—including district and university-based internship models, and a credentialing program run by a successful charter school, High Tech High of San Diego—PACT has been shown to be reliable, valid, and a strong lever for improving both teacher competence and program quality,” Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond writes in a CAP study.
PACT involves the daily taping of classroom lectures. It should be noted that California public schools  have not posted particularly stunning academic gains for some time.
At a recent CAP event accompanying the launch of Darling-Hammond’s report, Peter McWalters of the Council of Chief State School Officers asserted that the federal “Race to the Top” education program “leads to accountability.” Actually, a study  by the American Enterprise Institute found that the outlays may have had more political significance than educational impact.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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