I support using alternative methods to student performance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers. In fact, I have a long list of “tried and true” alternatives at The Best Articles Describing Alternatives To High-Stakes Testing.

One of those alternative measures worth considering, I believe, are student portfolios.

Well, this week, Arne Duncan gave a speech where he endorsed that view:

Just last week I met with Dru Davison, a fantastic music teacher in Memphis. Arts teachers there were frustrated because they were being evaluated based solely on school-wide performance in math and English. So he convened a group of arts educators to come up with a better evaluation system.

After Dru’s committee surveyed arts teachers in Memphis, they decided to develop a blind peer review evaluation to assess portfolios of student learning. It has proved enormously popular—so much so that Tennessee is now looking at adopting the system statewide for arts instructors. If we are willing to listen, and to do things differently, the answers are out there.

You can find more information about this Memphis plan here (and I’ve also contacted Mr. Davison for more information).

Of course, Secretary Duncan only endorsed it for arts teachers. But you’ll see articles on my previously mentioned “The Best…” list that detail ways schools have used similar systems on a large scale.

It would be nice if the U.S. Department of Education seriously explored such a system, but I’m not holding my breath.

Thanks to Alexander Russo for the link to Duncan’s speech.