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Editorial: High-stakes teacher test a mistake

Updated: July 22, 2011 2:17AM



The Chicago Public Schools made the right call Thursday when it reversed course on a just-launched plan to use a questionnaire to dump some would-be teachers out of the applicant pool. Survey results now will be used in hiring decisions by principals, but the results won’t disqualify any applicant.

We see no other option, particularly given the bungled rollout of this high-stakes questionnaire. The online 100-question survey queries an applicant’s initiative, work ethic, organizational skills and capacity to be a team player.

Since June, 30 percent of applicants who have taken the test have scored low enough to be excluded from hiring. Too bad many applicants didn’t know when they took the test that failure meant being knocked out of the running. And most egregiously, many applicants, including many highly desirable ones, had job offers that were rescinded after the results came in.

This do-or-die survey was launched well before Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard took over in May. But as a former principal, he told us, he never would have initiated it. “I would never be open to one thing as a block,” he said. “Hiring is just too complex to put it down to one thing.”

That said, CPS was on the right course here. Historically, its hiring process has been random and disorganized, done almost exclusively by individual principals. The survey is part of new centralized online application process that, we hope, will raise the quality of the applicant pool and give principals better information about applicants. It also gives principals who get few applications access to the resumes of all would-be teachers.

The survey, designed to capture the characteristics of highly successful urban teachers, is an important tool for principals. After looking at research on other variables — college grades, ACT scores, college selectivity — CPS found they weren’t reliable indicators of teacher performance. But CPS, citing in-house and independent research, says higher scores on teacher surveys like the one it is using correlate with better performance on the job.



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