Bennett: Jeb Bush ‘knows exactly what to do and how to get it done’

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett cites former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a major influence on his approach to policy and politics in a recent Education Week article.

“He’s had an incredible influence on me, because he knows exactly what to do and how to get it done,” Bennett tells writer Sean Cavanaugh. “He wore what he believed would change the system on his sleeve, and he really invited the debate.”

Bush, a younger brother of President George W. Bush, served as Florida’s governor from 1999-2007. He established the Foundation for Excellence in Education after leaving office. He disavows speculation that he may someday run for president, Education Week says.

The article focuses on Bush’s shift from governing the fourth most populous state to being a national leader on education. It identifies Indiana as one of the states where “lawmakers and officeholders say they are determined to follow the ambitious and often polarizing education blueprint fashioned by Mr. Bush.”

That includes promoting charter schools, taking aggressive steps to turn around low-performing schools, evaluating teachers on student test scores gains, and grading schools on an A-to-F system. It also includes taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for some students to attend private schools. Florida adopted a voucher program under Bush but the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2006.

In November, Bennett joined state education leaders from Rhode Island, Louisiana, Florida and Virginia to form Chiefs for Change to push for ambitious state-level reforms. The group was launched at a summit sponsored by Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

More questions about basing teacher evaluations on test scores

Following up on last week’s post, here are some articles and studies about the pros and cons of using test-score data to measure the effectiveness of teachers.

The topic is timely, because Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett want to make such data a major part of teacher evaluations. Evaluations that rely on student test scores, they say, should be used “to inform decisions about hiring, firing, professional development, compensation, placement, transfers and reductions in force.”

This is a national issue, and much is being written about assessing teacher effectiveness with “value-added” measures, which employ sophisticated statistical techniques to rate teachers at improving the test scores of students. (Indiana will apparently use a “growth model,” a less complex measure than value-added, to gauge teacher effectiveness).

Some examples:

An article in District Administration magazine provides an overview. It connects value-added analysis with issues such as merit pay and teacher retention and examines how the approach has been used in New York, Houston and Winston-Salem, N.C.

A New York Times story reveals problems with a teacher ranking system in New York City, where the school district is caught in a battle between the news media and the teachers’ union over whether value-added rankings for individual teachers should be made public. Continue reading