Press Release

AFT Statement On 'The Widget Effect,' The New Teacher Project's Report on Teacher Evaluations

For Release: 

Monday, June 1, 2009


John See

WASHINGTON— This report offers further evidence that our current teacher evaluation system, by and large, doesn't work. The report also points the way to a credible, fair, accurate and effective teacher evaluation system that would improve teaching and learning.

While the AFT and the New Teacher Project (TNTP) have had differences in the past, we are in agreement that the current evaluation system is a blunt instrument that should be replaced by a more precise tool to help teachers grow professionally and serve students better. To TNTP's credit, the report's recommendations steer clear of quick fixes, such as relying heavily on student test scores to evaluate teachers. The report finds that such a change would make the situation worse, not better.

While the overarching conclusions of the report are sound, we have concerns about the report's data, particularly with respect to teacher evaluations in Toledo, Ohio. Toledo has a highly regarded teacher evaluation system — known as peer assistance and review, or PAR — that produces much better results than those described in this report. TNTP's data are contradicted by our members' experiences in Toledo and by the findings of Harvard researcher Susan Moore Johnson (see

Toledo's PAR program, in which excellent, experienced teachers evaluate others, has helped many new or struggling teachers identify and address their weaknesses, helping them become effective classroom teachers. What's more, the Toledo program has counseled out of the profession many teachers who, after receiving help, couldn't get the job done. PAR has led to far more dismissals than traditional principal evaluations have-and far more than the number reported by TNTP for Toledo.

We are excited that TNTP shares our goal of redesigning teacher evaluations, and we look forward to working with TNTP and others to improve the quality of instruction in our schools.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.