Election year politics and teacher protests may lead to changes in evaluations

At a recent education forum in Atlanta, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, questioned Georgia’s plan to base half of its teacher evaluations on student scores on the new Milestones, an exam he derided as “a $12 fill-in-the blank test.”

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Weighting test scores so heavily is bound to upset teachers, especially with a new and unproven test, he warned.

While state leaders may quibble with Petrilli’s denigration of the Georgia Milestones — the state Department of Education told me Georgia spends $25 per test including grading costs — they apparently now agree using a single test score for 50 percent of a teacher’s rating is wrong.

(An aside: Georgia left the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers because of the projected costs of the tests it was developing. But DOE says we are now spending $25.48 on average per test. I went to the PARCC site today, and it says, “The PARCC annual state tests in reading, writing and math cost $23.97 per student for computer-based administration of the assessment, plus a small administrative fee.” A study released today by the Fordham Institute declared the PARCC tests are high-quality and utilize advanced thinking rather than memorization. Can someone explain how we saved money going with our home-grown tests?)

Two new Senate bills call for dialing back the significance of test scores. (The bills also seek to streamline testing, end duplicate testing and bolster the diagnostic worth.) The change of heart can be credited to two forces; it’s an election year and educators mounted strong arguments that test scores are an imprecise indicator of teacher quality.

Under Senate Bill 355, introduced this week by Sen. William T. Ligon, R-Brunswick, test scores would count a mere 10 percent in teacher ratings.

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said 10 percent lowers the bar too much. “The 10 percent is just meaningless; it makes it almost trivial,” said Walsh, while in Atlanta today. “It represents a great deal of cynicism about the quality of the tests available. If teachers feel the tests accurately capture what students are learning and their progress in the classroom, most teachers are well-meaning and would probably support student growth being used in evaluations.”

A 2015 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality found 42 states and the District of Columbia adopted policies requiring student growth and achievement factor into teacher evaluations. Walsh recommends test scores count for 35 percent of teacher evaluations, a level that she says communicates, “Student learning matters.”

Introduced today, Senate Bill 364 from Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, is closer to that mark. It would set the test-based component of teacher evaluations at 30 percent.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods threw his support behind the Tippins bill, which has a higher likelihood of passing given the stature of its sponsor. “This would allow the evaluation system to become more of a coaching tool instead of a gotcha’ tool,” said Woods. “We conducted a survey of more than 53,000 Georgia teachers, and an overwhelming percentage selected ‘number of state-mandated tests’ and the ‘method for evaluating teachers’ as the main reasons why 44 percent of newly hired teachers leave the profession within five years.

Both bills won praise from the Georgia Association of Educators. “We would like to thank them both on their efforts to help bring some rationality to the process,” said GAE President Sid Chapman.

Over the last 15 years, the federal focus — embodied by George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top grants — has been on raising student performance by raising test scores. The pressure to improve test scores traveled from the White House to the State House to the schoolhouse, landing squarely on teachers.

Teachers are leery of tethering their fates — and their pay under a proposal floated by Gov. Nathan Deal — to how students perform on one test on one day. As a teacher said recently on this blog, “We expect to be evaluated. But evaluate us on what we can control: our planning and teaching, our education, experience, and professional development. Teachers take what we are given, and we do the best we can. Evaluate us fairly. The burden for teaching is on teachers. The burden for learning should be on students, and by extension on the parents. Until our society returns to this understanding and stops placing both burdens on teachers, education is not going to improve.”

Reader Comments 1

18 comments
jerryeads
jerryeads

Guess I should have posted this here rather than the earlier piece:

Was pleased to see your print piece this morning. Fascinating that were Jerry Bracey still with us he and Petrilli would agree :-). The DOE might spend $25 a kid rather than $12, but Millstones is still just an unproven low-bid minimum competency bubble test. No one has EVER even thought of asking the question whether the tests help teachers help kids be better. Of course, none of all this testing has, which is why, in spite of our testing until we're blue in the face, neither scores on NAEP nor for that matter any other indicator that might actually reflect learning have risen.

Wouldn't it be nice if we spent that $25 on something that might actually help kids - and help teachers help kids?

BRAVO for Ligon and Tippins for listening to the research - and educators. Ligon's 10% might be closer to appropriate given there's no evidence whatsoever that Millstones has anything whatsoever to do with actual learning.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

"Weighting test scores so heavily is bound to upset teachers, especially with a new and unproven test, he warned." Especially because Georgia teachers have seen the other tests and rules about the tests that Georgia has come up with!

readcritic
readcritic

Test scores are not the only problem with the evaluation system. TKES is wielded like a sword by administrators who have free reign to write whatever they please, whether it is accurate or not. If they like the teacher, he/she can do no wrong. If they don't, he/she can not do anything right. Teachers are victims of the manipulative administrators who schedule their classes. How can an evaluation situation be fair when there is no mention of class size or make-up? There can be no equality in evaluating the high school IB teacher who has 15 students who are self-starters and bright and care about their grades and have strong family support versus the teacher who has five to six classes totaling 180 students (35+ per class) who have little to no family support and are below level under-achievers who are truant, have discipline issues going back to elementary school, have parole officers and/or ankle monitors, anger management counselors, jail time, pregnancy, ESOL and Special Ed inclusion students. This latter group consists of students who really don't care about grades and school and are often two or three time grade-level repeaters failing all classes despite opportunities for retests, tutoring, and extra-credit work. In addition, many of these students have an IEP or 504 plan. The administrative walk-through and a few 15 to 20 minute observations between the two teachers will show vastly different results. What are the chances that the teacher with high numbers of challenging students will have good test scores and perfect class behavior during these evaluations? This teacher has no chance to score well under such circumstances. After two years of poor evaluations, the Georgia State Professional Standards Commission will not renew the teacher's license and a career is destroyed based on subjective scheduling and evaluation. There is a great deal more involved in evaluating a teacher than test results, and the politicians and media publicize only one deficiency with the evaluation instrument.  It really requires much more in-depth information about class make-up to provide an accurate summation of a teacher's performance. 

HILUX
HILUX

I wonder if Senators Tippins intended his unlikely bill to be the excuse for this newspaper column to trot out, again and again, teachers' union arguments against accountability.

Accountability improves student learning, and the evidence of this keeps growing. 

The latest comes from a study of Washington D.C.'s now rigorous teacher evaluation system. The study was carried out by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.

It found that the mere threat of removal forces low-performing teachers to either leave the profession or shape up. And those choosing to leave tend to be replaced by better quality teachers. 

This churn in the Washington D.C. public schools teacher workforce improved annual student learning by four months in reading and math, conclude the researchers. And they note that high-poverty schools experience the most benefit from tougher teacher evaluations -- because that's where low-performing teachers tend to congregate.

http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2013/pr-dee-teacher-assessments-101713.html


HILUX
HILUX

@taylor48 @HILUX 

Is there some reason both sides of an issue shouldn't be heard each time the issue is reintroduced here?

Or should teachers' union talking points just go unchallenged?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@HILUX Let's see. If you were, say, an accountant, and you cautioned your clients that they were doing something illegal, but they continued it anyway, should you be arrested and held liable?

taylor48
taylor48

@HILUX Do you just have this response typed into MS word so you can paste it into every blog post?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Georgia is like a child suffering from ODD.  "I will NOT do what I am told!  You can't make me!"  under the guise of "saving money."  Using the PARRC tests means less a chance  to steer money toward supporters of Georgia politicians, and NO ONE wants to lose out on that chance!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Any other teacher on here witness a student saying, "I don't get it" repeatedly, even after the teacher takes it back to the most basic sub-part?  It means the student does not have to think; the teacher tries again and again to elicit a response indicating engagement, while the student gets TONS of attention from teacher and peers, some of whom adopt the mantra.  THIS is who you think should determine 30% of a teacher's evaluation?

teachermom4
teachermom4

@Wascatlady The learned helplessness is just ridiculous. Some of our kids won't do anything without being spoon-fed the concept. And these same kids are supposed to answer higher order questions correctly on a test? And that result will impact my evaluation and paycheck? The same kid who in 5th grade refuses to capitalize and punctuate? Who hasn't yet memorized multiplication facts so that he can actually perform multiplication and division of fractions and mixed numbers successfully?

Another comment
Another comment

Why can't we just use the IOWA tests, the SSAT, SAT and ACT. I know why they might show that Georgia is 48 or 49 th. They also don't allow payback for the republican political donors.

Let's not forget JEB BUsh along with George W. Bush who had this great deal with Teddy Kennedy to do all this Testing. So brother Neil could make a bunch of money off the testing industry! Look it up those are the facts, a bunch of privileged Private school elites who never stepped a day in Public School in their lives dreamed up this testing senerio to make money for one of the brothers. Along with Pearson and other testing companies and consultants.

This is another reason we don't want the same old politics

HILUX
HILUX

@Wascatlady @Another comment 

In your own tiny, tiny way ... you and your equally snarky friends are the reasons America's so politically polarized. 

That make you happy?

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

Have they ever read the Art of the Deal...the 10% is a negotiation point....fools. 

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