With the Obama administration’s latest policy pronouncement, the federal grip on American education grows tighter and stupider every day.

The latest: the administration plans to reward the best teacher-training institutions and drive the “worst” ones out of business. This is like Race to the Top for teacher preparation programs.

What are their measures? Of course, student test scores loom large.

“The goal: To ensure that every state evaluates its teacher education programs by several key metrics, such as how many graduates land teaching jobs, how long they stay in the profession and whether they boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. The administration will then steer financial aid, including nearly $100 million a year in federal grants to aspiring teachers, to those programs that score the highest. The rest, Duncan said, will need to improve or “go out of business.”

Thus, programs that send their graduates to work in urban districts with high-needs students will get low ratings. Duncan will drive them out of business. Smart institutions will steer their graduates to affluent suburbs, where scores will go up regardless of what they do.

The message from the U.S. Department of Education to the nation’s colleges of teacher education:

1. Do not send your graduates to teach struggling students who are likely to get small or no gains on standardized tests, such as students with extreme disabilities and English language learners, as well as gifted students, who are unlikely to post gains because of the ceiling effect.

2. Teach to the test. Drill the students hour after hour. Extend the school day whenever possible so there is more time for test prep.

3. Don’t waste time on non-tested subjects like the arts, history, civics, and science. They don’t count.

4. Invest in Pearson and McGraw-Hill stock.

The evidence is overwhelming that value-added measures for teachers are inaccurate, but neither secretary Duncan nor the White House care about evidence.

As reporter Stephanie Simon points out:

“The formulas for measuring how much “value” a teacher adds to a student’s test scores are complex and often carry a sizable margin of error.

“Earlier this month, the American Statistical Association warned that such formulas must be used with caution because teachers generally account for less than 15 percent — and in some studies, as little as 1 percent — of the variability in student test scores. Value-added models spit out precise-sounding numbers that purport to quantify a teacher’s impact on her students, but in fact the formulas “typically measure correlation, not causation,” the group concluded.

“A recent study funded by the Education Department found that value-added measures may fluctuate significantly due to factors beyond the teachers’ control, including random events such as a dog barking loudly outside a classroom window, distracting students during their standardized test. A 2010 study, also funded by the Education Department, found the models misidentify as many as 50 percent of teachers — pegging them as average when they’re actually better or worse than their peers, or singling them out for praise or condemnation when they’re actually average.

“Yet another challenge: Calculating scores for educators who do not teach subjects or grades assessed with standardized exams. Nationally, some 70 percent of teachers — including most high school and early elementary teachers, plus art, music and physical education teachers — fall into that category.

“Despite such complications, [White House policy director Cecilia] Muñoz made clear in a call with reporters on Thursday that Obama wants student test scores, or other measures of student growth, to figure heavily into states’ evaluations of teacher prep programs.

“This is something the president has a real sense of urgency about,” she said. “What happens in the classroom matters. It doesn’t just matter — it’s the whole ballgame.” So using student outcomes to evaluate teacher preparation programs “is really fundamental to making sure we’re successful,” Muñoz said. “We believe that’s a concept … whose time has come.”

Yes, using student test scores to evaluate teachers, principals, schools, and teacher colleges is “a concept… whose time has come,” despite the fact that there is no evidence for it, despite the fact that the nation’s leading scholarly organizations have warned about its limitations and misuse, despite the fact that it fails to account for factors beyond the teachers” control, and despite the fact that it misidentifies teacher effectiveness at an alarmingly high rate.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/barack-obama-arne-duncan-teacher-training-education-106013.html#ixzz2zuFEulXw