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Union Shifts on Teacher Evaluations

The nation’s largest teachers’ union affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country.

In approving the new policy at its annual assembly, the 3.2 million-member National Education Association hopes to take a leadership role in the growing national movement to hold teachers accountable for student achievement — an effort from which it has conspicuously stood apart, the New York Times reported.

“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who convened a working group of union leaders last spring to develop the new proposal. “This policy statement was written by and for teachers.”

The NEA stopped short of supporting the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of overhauled teacher-evaluation systems in at least 15 states and a practice the union made clear it continues to oppose.  Some teachers also balked at another section of the policy, a proposal that failing teachers be given only one year to improve, instead of the standard two. Ultimately, a clear majority voted for the change.

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