Georgia’s teacher evaluation plan ignores responsibility, role of learner

A Sunday AJC story documented the mounting frustration of Georgia teachers over an evaluation process that will not only consider student test scores, but count them for 50 percent of a teacher’s rating.

The story explained:

Georgia adopted test scores in teacher evaluations three years ago as the federal government was pressuring states to create rating systems that held educators accountable for student performance. In December, though, reacting to widespread complaints from teachers and parents that testing had hijacked education, Congress and President Barack Obama undid the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. The new law doesn’t mandate that teachers be measured by test results. It also doesn’t forbid it, leaving the decision to state leaders.

Teachers in Georgia have seized on the political moment, hoping to strip down a 2013 state law requiring test results to be at least 50 percent of each evaluation, with consequences as severe as termination for teachers rated “ineffective.”

Teachers have begun getting their test-based evaluations. However, personnel decisions based on them have been delayed until the state Professional Standards Commission and Department of Education refine and field-test the system, which could take until 2017. “We are going to have to be satisfied the instruments are valid and reliable and ready to be used before we apply them, ” said Kelly Henson, executive secretary of the commission.

With that background, here is a response from Georgia educator Rouzier Dorce. A veteran educator with more than 30 years in the field, Dr. Rouzier serves as an assistant principal with the DeKalb County School District where he has worked since 1990.

By Rouzier Dorce

Imagine doctors being paid based on the progress of their patients. How many would remain in the profession if their patients, who ignore their recommendations and do not follow their advice were to determine how much they are paid or if they even have a job?

What is the student's role in learning? Does the state's evaluation process discount the role of students?

What is the student’s role in learning? Does the state’s teacher evaluation process discount the role of students? (AJC File)

The proponents of teacher accountability through student achievement should consider that argument. Even the best doctors have to rely on their patients following their treatments and recommendations.

When it comes to teaching and learning, we have a myriad of false correlations and most of them stem from misunderstandings of what learning is and the role of educators. For years, we have repeated and even accepted the myth that learning does not happen without teaching. We have heard respected educators pronounce that when teachers teach, students learn making learning almost the sole responsibility of the teacher. I recently came face to face with the result of this fallacy.

Last week, a student shared with me that she was taking French 4 (fourth year of learning the French language) and I said “vraiment?” meaning really? She answered, “I don’t know what you said.”

I added, “That’s sad,” to which she responded “My teacher doesn’t teach.” Many of her classmates concurred and supported her assumption that had her teacher taught her, she would have learned.

There is a “YouTube” video, it would seem, for any subject, no matter how advanced or trivial. Our interest, determination, practice time and effort yield our learning results. Yes, the quality of the video and the teaching tips play a crucial role, but remove the intrinsic factors from the learner, even the best videos cannot produce learning.

To have teachers be solely responsible for students’ learning to the point of making it 50 percent or more of their performance evaluation like Georgia legislators have proposed, baffles me. We already have the many incidents of cheating partly attributable to this theory that teachers control learning.  Do we dare imagine the backlash of an evaluation system with 50 percent of the measured outcome out of the hands of the persons being evaluated?

No one would argue against the need to evaluate teachers’ performance. No one would argue against the fact that teachers can and do impact student learning, academic growth and development. A system that measures that impact using test scores is tenuous at best and impractical at worse. Standardized tests are important in education, but they are not without their flaws. Even if we could find the perfect assessment instrument, it would still be measuring the examinee’s ability to recall information or demonstrate knowledge of learned content. It could not measure half of what would be considered teacher ability.

One of the teachers featured in Sunday’s AJC article “Teachers frustrated over reviews” shared that one of the students who potentially caused her to receive a poor evaluation was planning to drop out of school. This is a challenge many teachers face. They are working hard teaching students whose drive and motivation for learning have systematically been damaged or destroyed by social promotion. Few teachers can compete with the apathy and complacency some students have developed after years of being passed from grade to grade even when they have not learned much of anything. This is the reality for many public school teachers. Most take their students’ failures personally and it is no wonder many simply give up.

Evaluating teachers’ performance will have to be done through a comprehensive process that considers their students’ achievement. It will require many data points. It cannot be that heavily dependent on the success of students who have no skin in the game – students who have grown up on the belief that their promotion and learning are someone else’s responsibility. Students who, perhaps with their parents, own their learning usually succeed academically. Perhaps, some emphasis needs to be placed on learner improvement to ensure that teachers have a fair chance at reaching them.

Doctors must be knowledgeable and possess the ability to help us manage our health, but our overall responsibility cannot be overstated. Teachers have a similar responsibility, but the learner’s role cannot be minimized. Our best teachers are those who endure the general criticism and persevere because of their love for teaching and for their students. They deserve a fair and practical evaluation system.

Reader Comments 0

140 comments
April4Christ
April4Christ

Awesome!! Hopefully Ga legislators will truly read this article & realize this article speaks the truth!!

Mack68
Mack68

Though I posted in response to another comment below, I'll post this again. 

Here is the recent statement from the American Statistical Association on the subject of VAM (Value Added Measurement or Student Growth Percentiles) when it comes to applicability to teacher evaluation. 

The IDEA of measuring student growth in some way is good, but the current and proposed method of calculation is the problem given how the state plans to use it for 50% of a teacher's evaluation. http://www.amstat.org/policy/pdfs/asa_vam_statement.pdf


Mack68
Mack68

"Research on VAMs has been fairly consistent that aspects of educational effectiveness that are measurable and within teacher control represent a small part of the total variation in student test scores or growth; most estimates in the literature attribute between 1% and 14% of the total variability to teachers. This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences."

Mack68
Mack68

Just to get it out of the way, the American Statistical Association has no affiliation with any teachers' unions. 

Mack68
Mack68

and those "unmeasured influences" also include things that others like OldDog often mention: approaches to discipline, aggressively promoting attendance, parent engagement strategies, etc.

Not saying that teachers who don't cut the mustard are immune (they are not, and that must be rooted out), but if we stop beating up on teachers in general and start also focusing on some of the other factors that may more heavily affect student outcomes, we might start getting somewhere.

For one, curriculum. The state has yet to adopt many common core aligned textbooks, so lots of districts are in limbo. If they're going to keep the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, they either need to approve textbooks or turn it over to the districts. Middle school math comes to mind.

When politicians jerk schools around with changes in "standards" it trickles down to the materials that those teachers are able to use, because there's a huge lag time to develop standards-aligned materials. 

Thank heavens I kept the math textbooks and workbooks that the district thew out when they went Common Core, because I can use them now for my youngest child. Her grade level teachers are cobbling stuff together from the internet. 

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Why not ask the senior employee appraisal specialists at private consulting firms about whether the current proposal is wise?    My guess is that more than a few of them will have kittens when they read the fine details of what is about to be foisted upon us.


This strikes me as many years overdue.  Few will suggest what ought to be done without being engaged to give advice, but they'll probably be happy to suggest where the current proposal goes off the rails.  They may want to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, but I'd still suggest that the AJC will find general agreement among the group.

jerryeads
jerryeads

In addition to noting that the cheaply-made low-bid tests the state buys are next to useless, we might remember that the tests themselves force teachers to commit bad teaching in the form of endless worksheeting, drill and kill instruction (not teaching), and rote memorizing, all absolutely guaranteed to make kids hate school - which guarantees that kids won't try to do well on tests.

Want better teaching? Test for diagnosis, not evaluation. Train school leadership to help teachers get better rather than letting districts hire as principal board member Sammy Jo Bob's third cousin who couldn't coach football (or teach). Quit electing legislators and governors who steal school funding for pet projects. Appoint "reform" commission members who at least have some remote clue about schooling and teaching.

We've been TALKING about better education forever, yet test scores have for all intents and purposes never changed. And never, ever, have we ever bothered to ponder whether better test scores have anything at all to do with better education - or better citizens.

Jesse Rothschild
Jesse Rothschild

Rouzier Dorce makes a clearly defensive argument here, with poor analogies, poor word use (you're an educator!), and a ridiculous statement regarding standardized tests.

The physician analogy rings hollow because most physicians are indeed held accountable for their patient's outcome, i.e. is the infection treated? Is the bone set? Is the wound stitched up? True, there are examples such as weight loss, diabetes control, smoking cessation, where doctors cannot be held responsible. But teachers have that same safety net: the students must pass tests to get to a particular grade level. If students don't work at getting there, the teacher isn't held accountable for that student's failure to arrive at the teacher's class. But once that child does arrive, it's the teacher's responsibility to teach.

I am not sympathetic to teachers who fail to teach. Teaching is not just about putting the information in front of students; it's also about inspiring learning, inspiring desire to learn, and inspiring thinking. And you'd better not tell me "we're not paid enough for that", because you either do the job or you dont. It's Economy 101 - make you're own correlation here.

If the children in a teacher's class are not learning, well, that's a problem. If one out of twenty students is struggling, it's probably not a teaching problem. But if ten out of twenty are? Sorry - the teacher needs to be addressed for lack of success. Everyone is know is called on the carpet for job performance, and a teacher's job is to teach. What makes teachers exempt from performance requirements? And standardized tests are the accepted way of measuring teaching/learning success.

Dont like teachers being judged by their students' standardized test scores? Why no--my kids sure are! When secondary education and the college and university systems stop using standardized tests to judge my children, then you can get you own pass on standardized tests.

Finally, it's not "we have a myriad of false correlations...", it's "there are myriad false correlations..." If you're going to use big words, use them correctly... or don't teach my kids.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

"But teachers have that same safety net: the students must pass tests to get to a particular grade level. If students don't work at getting there, the teacher isn't held accountable for that student's failure to arrive at the teacher's class."


This alone is a tell that the writer knows NOTHING about how schools are being run now!


No,  it is much more like the doctor and a patient who needs to lose weight, stop smoking, AND control their diabetes, with the patient frequently actively resisting doing any of the above!

NikoleA
NikoleA

@Jesse Rothschild most physicians are indeed held accountable for their patient's outcome, i.e. is the infection treated? Is the bone set? Is the wound stitched up?


In the teacher world, this would equate to our duties and responsibilities.  Did we teach the content, assess and reteach the content? Did we offer the information to students in various ways? All things that we can control, work that we actually do.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

And sometimes recruiting OTHER patients to also actively resist.

davenitup
davenitup

Re: "I am not sympathetic to teachers who fail to teach. Teaching is not just about putting the information in front of students; it's also about inspiring learning, inspiring desire to learn, and inspiring thinking."

So doctors, dentists, financial advisors, etc have a responsibility to inspire their clients to meet specific client improvement metrics or risk losing the job\professional license that they invested years to attain. That's a slippery societal slope, but if that's the way it's going then they'll need to familiarize themselves with terms like differentation and maybe start incorporating some singing\dancing\rapping into their client interactions. Of course that's not the secret either, but it looks like you're trying. The reality is that you can lead the horse to water but you can't make it drink. So much wasted effort.   

teacher777
teacher777

A very good article.  I totally agree.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I've never been a K-12 teacher, but I just don't understand how a teacher's evaluation plan can rely upon students' test-scores when there are so many factors for the student performance that are out of the teacher's control, and there's no personal incentive for the student to do well on the test.  It really does sound crazy.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@OriginalProf I read an article(can't find it now) that their research indicated teachers' account for about an 11% impact on student learning overall.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @OriginalProf What alternative is there? At least, you have a concrete, meaningful in some degree, objective number, not just one, but comparing scores at the start and end of the school year.

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady @Starik @AvgGeorgian @OriginalProf The State is flush with money, the Bushrecession being over, so we can afford valid tests.  Tie test scores to the kids' progress to the next grade and you'll get the kids' attention. However, a State that drops a really easy graduation test doesn't care.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik @Wascatlady @AvgGeorgian @OriginalProf  "a State that drops a really easy graduation test doesn't care." You got that right!  But where was the educational establishment in this battle?  Were they against doing away with the test?  I think you will find out that they led the initiative to get rid of the test so their graduation rates could go up.

Icuthink2
Icuthink2

Why is everyone surprised about this? This has been the state of our country for the past 25 years. Our society promotes people to complain and blame all failure, shortcomings, and problems on everyone else except themselves. As a result, good teachers will continue to be replaced by mostly inexperienced, and/or bad teachers who will give A's for little or no effort as opposed to challenging students. Domineering administrators will continue to blame their teachers and placate the parents while hightailing to whatever school pays them the most money because they are ultimately stressed out as well. There are some good teachers out there that continue to hold the line pushing students to actually learn, but it's only a matter of time before they get burnt out, so their numbers dwindle every single day. Test scores will continue to be manipulated, and kids will learn nothing more than what's on the tests.  Another problem is that there is little or no accountability for administrators. It is tough being a teacher these days. Until we hold students, parents, teachers, and administrators accountable for their actions, only then will we be able to evaluate teachers with any validity. Until then, teachers will continue to be the scapegoats of all failures in schools. Teacher turnover rates will continue to rise, and apathy in schools will continue to fester. Our kids and our society are ultimately those that end up suffering the most. The whole public system is backward.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Icuthink2 The current interest in education is mainly driven by Money. Simple. Take it from locally elected school districts and give it to friends, family, and donors at the state level.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Legong @AvgGeorgian @Icuthink2


I have a big green arrow next to my posts. You can skip if you please. I am working hard to maintain choice with my tax money and improve my local community. Also my hands have been working well lately and I want to make the most of it.

J260
J260

There's no proven correlation between money and learning either, yet the educrats berate the taxpayers for more, more, more of it.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

You are wrong. A recent article in the Washington Post cites a study confirming that money does indeed make a difference, especially for the students from lower SES backgrounds.

clewis564
clewis564

Really everything starts at home. Everything. Parents have alot of responsibility in the education of their child as well. Sending them to school with the right attitude to learn and respect the teachers and authority and to do their work. Also to promote it outside of school. Taking their kids to the library, museums, family vacations,etc. Even sunday school at church. I hated going but after reading the bible when they put Shakespheare in front of me at school it wasn't foreign. I could read and understand anything. School boards and teachers need to remind parents and point the fingers at them that they are just as important as teachers in the learning process. If the kids don't want to learn, don't respect the teachers and have bad attitudes it doesn't matter who the teacher is or the school. Schools are made up of the parents kids. If the school is bad then the parents need to look at themselves first. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@clewis564 Sounds like you are making a good case for earlier, formal, public education and a community support focus for public education. Has the governor's ERC proposed that?

newsjunkie523
newsjunkie523

@clewis564 Bingo. Parents are the key to a child's success at school. Nothing, nothing else is as important.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Maybe the governor and legislature should have performance as 50% of their evaluation.


Georgia ranked as tenth worst state in quality of life.


"If you’re trying to stay positive on a gray and rainy Monday, this probably isn’t going to help. The financial news and opinion website Wall St. 24/7 recently ranked Georgia as tenth worst state in terms of quality of life. The story was based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, including income, education, safety, and accessibility to services. Georgia was dragged down by its low employment rate (64.7 percent—10th lowest), scant household disposable income per capita ($26,426—13th lowest), and a higher homicide rate (5.7—13th highest). - See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/rank-study-says-georgia-tenth-worst-quality-life/#sthash.sDGaiURM.dpuf"

Legong
Legong

@AvgGeorgian 

Georgia voters get to freely decide their leaders every Election Day. But parents don't get to freely decide the schools their kids go to.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Legong @AvgGeorgian They most certainly do. They are free to live in any school they choose district to access public school or pay for a private school or home school for fee with state provided courses. 


What you are talking about is taking away the choices of other taxpayers who choose to keep their taxes in their local community and schools. Shame on your greed $$$ to to take choice from others.

J260
J260

Oh, wanting a decent education for your children makes a parent greedy? With $$$$ signs? Because I don't see parents wanting anyone to write them a check, I see parents looking for decent schools.

You don't even know the definition of "greed." I bet you were an APS teacher of the year.

J260
J260

And why don't you explain how school choice takes choice away from others while you're at it.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Legong @AvgGeorgian Bullshot......good parents find away......not blame everyone else! Home School.......free online school.....there are always options for real parents. Not give me a free handout for private school. You want private school for your children pay for it and stop whining.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

No, students/parents don't get to choose which school they go to if they choose the traditional public school in the same,way they don't get to choose which police force or fire station will answer their 911 call. The good news is that the private sector offers choice.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @AvgGeorgian @J260 I have been campaigning to help ALL failing schools - by pressuring them to address the key issues of discipline, attendance, and social promotion, but all I get are excuses why my ideas cannot be implemented.  They were implemented in 1965, but now are not considered PC.  If the traditional schools won't do the job, then maybe we need different choices. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@sneakpeakintoeducation I have moved several times in grad school (when there was no way I could afford to, but I did without to live in a more expensive area served by better schools) for my children.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@J260


Here's how it works - each parent almost always pays in less taxes than it costs to educate their child. The taxes of those without children in public schools make up the difference. The taxes paid by citizens in a school district go to support their local public schools. Most taxpayers choose to support their local schools.


Now, I am for parents being given a tax credit of only their taxes paid for removing their children from the public schools.


If you want better than publicly provided for your family, don't reach out to put your hand in someone else's pocket. Reach for a second/third job and make it happen. Run for local school board or campaign for your choice.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Another "mandate" brought to you by our friends in the Federal Government  (I'm from the Federal Government, I am here to help you).  If you want to evaluate teachers, it should consist of two parts:  How well they know the subject matter (easy enough to determine through testing), and how well they present the material.  They are paid to TEACH, LEARNING is up to the student.  Student testing should determine student LEARNING, and it should be enforced (in other words - you don't graduate if you FAIL).  You know, like they did back in the sixties!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The legislature took away the GHST. Why?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian  So they could graduate students that were clearly not up to par. One of the stupidest things that was ever done.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @AvgGeorgian

So that is a legislative problem, not an educational problem. 


I am for a GHSGT that is aligned with a well thought out, provided, and supported curriculum that, as you suggested, is easy to evaluate on teacher knowledge and presentation, not student performance. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian @class80olddog Did the "educational establishment" push for the Legislature to do away with the GHSGT?  Or were they defending it?  The Truth will set you free!