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I’m beginning to think that the District of Columbia isn’t that serious about evaluating its teachers.

Sure, D.C. has its vaunted IMPACT evaluation system that combines value-added measures of teachers’ contributions to their students’ mastery of reading and mathematics with observations of teachers’ practices inside and outside the classroom. And DCPS has used IMPACT to reward some teachers while firing others presumed to be ineffective and incorrigible, replacing them with newer, shinier and cheaper teachers.

But the system seems to be whiffing on some obvious opportunities to extend the evaluation of teachers to other school subjects. If the subjects are important, don’t they deserve this consideration? Without value-added measures of teachers’ contributions to students’ outcomes in areas other than reading or math, how will we know which teachers are successful, which ones need some remedial help, and which ones should be fired?

I’m referring specifically to health and sex education, and what elementary, middle and high-school students know about how to avoid a range of risky behaviors, such as teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and drug and alcohol abuse. Washington Post reporter Bill Turque reported recently that a 50-item standardized test of what students know about human sexuality, contraception and drug use will be administered to students in grades 5, 8 and 10 as part of the Spring 2012 administration of the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS).

DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education later clarified to Turque that students and teachers will not receive individual scores — at least for now — which prompted Turque to write on his D.C. Schools Insider blog, “So, just to review: No data for parents. No accountability for teachers. Why is this a meaningful tool?”

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Aaron Pallas is Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has also taught at Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Northwestern University, and...

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