Great common on my Edweek blog. Often I wish I had a way to call attention to smart comments like this one. My new blog gives me the chance to give additional attention to the ideas of thoughtful writers. This one comments as “laborlawyer.”

Objecting to high-stakes-testing cannot stop high-stakes-testing unless those objecting can offer a reasonable alternative to high-stakes-testing as a way to identify/remove ineffective teachers. The high-stakes-testing supporters argue that there are ineffective teachers in the schools, that current teacher evaluation systems are not identifying/removing those ineffective teachers, and that these ineffective teachers are a major cause of poorly-performing schools (that is, of low test scores in inner-city schools). These arguments are superficially compelling. It’s true that there are ineffective teachers in the schools (just as there are ineffective employees everywhere) and virtually all citizens have personal recollections of ineffective teachers from their own school days. It’s also true that current teacher evaluation systems are not identifying/removing ineffective teachers — in most school systems, the traditional principal-observes-and-evaluates evaluation system results in very few, if any, discharges. It’s probably not true that ineffective teachers are a major cause of poorly-performing schools (that is, the poorly performing schools are concentrated in low-income areas while the ineffective teachers, even if somewhat more common in the low-income areas, are certainly not concentrated in the low-income areas to the same extent as the low test scores are). But — it’s impossible to prove that ineffective teachers are not a major problem and, in any event, arguing in favor of ineffective teachers has zero appeal. High-stakes-testing is an inexpensive solution to the identify/remove-ineffective-teacher issue. So — to win the debate, opponents of high-stakes-testing must provide an alternative solution. An obvious possibility is a peer-review evaluation system similar to that used in Montgomery County, MD schools since 2001. This system — called “PAR” — has been amazingly successful at removing ineffective teachers with over 500 teachers discharged or resigned-in-lieu-of-PAR-evaluation. The teachers union supports PAR. There have been few litigation challenges to the discharges. The overwhelming majority of teachers think the system is fair. There is no high-stakes-testing, with all its adverse side effects. Briefly, principals identify teachers as possibly poor-performers; senior consulting teachers (who do not report to the principal) intensively monitor/evaluate the identified teachers; a consulting-teachers/principals committee makes the final discharge decision. It’s unclear why PAR has received so little public attention. The NY Times wrote a column praising PAR. But, the media and ed bloggers have otherwise largely ignored it. Opponents of high-stakes-testing should study and publicize PAR — or something like it — as an inexpensive, productive alternative to the destructive high-stakes-testing as a way to identify/remove ineffective teachers.