Should test scores matter 50 or 30 percent in teacher evals? Or at all?

I asked Jim Arnold, former Pelham City Schools superintendent, what he thinks of the bills in the General Assembly addressing teacher evaluations.

Here is his response:

By Jim Arnold

My dad was a police officer for 26 years in Jackson, Miss. My brothers and I were subject to almost daily interrogations from a trained professional. Partly because he controlled the car keys and the family finances and partly because we had a healthy respect for his occasional use of corporal punishment, we were denied the use of our Fifth Amendment rights concerning self-incrimination.

We did, however, learn from our mistakes, and became experts at answering his questions in ways that did not, at least too much, incriminate us and our teenage friends. We also became, through observation of and participation in dad’s investigative techniques, experts at detecting bovine scatology when we heard it. He once pointed to a newspaper story of a Mississippi politician who proposed a 75 percent raise for members of the Legislature. Public outcry was immediate and overwhelmingly negative, so a second politician came immediately to his colleagues’ defense.

testart“My friends, in these difficult economic times when so many families in our state are struggling to make ends meet, I say there is no justification for our Legislators to receive a 75 percent raise. Therefore, I propose that we save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the citizens of our state by cutting that proposed raise to not a dime more than 25 percent. That is the only way I could, in good conscience, support such a measure when our state is faced with the harsh reality of the current economic situation.” We immediately saw the lesson our dad was trying to teach us.

The story shows how public figures can make bad ideas more palatable for the public, but regardless of how you present it, a bad idea is a bad idea no matter the degree to which it is implemented.

Cutting the percentage that student test scores count from 50 percent to 30 percent for public school teachers and from 70 percent to 40 percent for principals is a good idea but does not solve the problem. The real issue here is the Georgia Legislature has allowed student test scores any place in evaluations of public school educators.

Consider this statement from the American Statistical Association “Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment” April 8, 2014, Executive Summary:

“VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes. VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model. Under some conditions, VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used, and a thorough analysis should be undertaken to evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to different models. VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed tom individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences.”

So while Senate Bill 364 and House Bill 1061 mitigate the effect of a bad idea, they don’t remove it completely. These two bills simply make a poor initial decision to include value added measures in teacher evaluations, one made without any research supportive of such a position and made to serve a political end rather than an educational one, a little more palatable to teachers. Test scores are excellent determinants of where and who you teach. They are worse than useless at anything else. 

There are several excellent ideas in State Rep. Tom Dickson’s House Bill 1061 that teachers can support. The idea of experienced teachers serving as mentors for their less experienced colleagues is a proven best practice method already employed by successful schools and systems. His idea of improving instruction and leadership rather than punishing behavior works with students and will work with teachers and administrators also.

Consider these points from Finland:

•There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school.

•There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded.

•The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians.

•Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.

Perhaps the key to turning evaluations into an effective and efficient tool for improving teaching and learning can be found in a suggestion from the spouse of an elementary principal in Georgia:  “The state Legislature and the DOE need to stop micromanaging the process…”

I would add that involving teachers in the process of determining educational policy would seem to be a common sense item that has all too often been ignored by the governor and the Georgia Legislature.

I am glad Rep. Dickson, a former teacher, principal and school superintendent, has a place at the table of educational policy making. I would hope that more legislators seek the opinions and advice of Georgia’s teachers when formulating educational policies. Until then, it would appear that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
class80olddog
class80olddog

Perhaps Finnish teachers give grades that are truly reflective of the student's achievement.  In that case, you don't need all of these standardized tests.  But, of course, in America...

irishmafia1116
irishmafia1116

Musings ...so how do you evaluate music teachers, PE teachers, business teachers, art teachers?

MajorDowning
MajorDowning

The only folks that can effectively evaluate teachers if that is to be done is the Principals, Dept Heads, Students and Parents.



readcritic
readcritic

Where are the arguments to improve the quality of politicians? Most are career politicians and can't be touched due to a lack of term limits. The American taxpayer deserves better. These politicians act only to preserve their positions and have little to no accountability. They spend taxpayer dollars with wild abandon and face minimal scrutiny while garnering $$$  and lifetime premium insurance benefits for themselves and their families. It is interesting that they cleverly maneuver themselves out of the spotlight by throwing suspicion elsewhere. Do teachers really have the power to corrupt on as grand a scale as politicians?  The public needs to fight a better fight. Just look at the state of the current economy.

MajorDowning
MajorDowning

@readcritic Politicians are evaluated every election day. Folks need to get off their back ends and replace them when they aren't doing the work of the community they were elected to represent. When was the last time you didn't vote for the incumbent? I'm not a big fan of incumbents.Especially when they aren't taking care of business, i.e., David Scott, John Lewis, Horacetta Tate,  David Perdue, Johnny Isakson

HILUX
HILUX

Again and again, Get Schooled recycles teachers' union arguments against accountability. But as parents and legislators intuitively know, 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

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@HILUX something tells me we won't be seeing that study in the AJC......sad

redweather
redweather

@HILUX Specifically, high-performing teachers as assessed by IMPACT earn an annual bonus of as much as $25,000, as well as an opportunity for similarly large and permanent increases in their base salaries.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@HILUX 

And you keep recycling this post and this Stanford study, leaving out its important point that the teacher workforce studied received not only teacher evaluations but a sizable bonus that became part of their permanent salary.

eulb
eulb

@HILUX Are students' test results factored into IMPACT's teacher evaluations?  If so, how are they factored in?  What percentage, etc?


In the article you cited, I see very little mention of students' test scores. Here are pertinent passages:

"The findings [in this IMPACT study] run counter to a spate of recent studies that found that incentives linked narrowly to test scores were not associated with a change in teacher performance."

...

"IMPACT's teacher performance assessments are based on multiple measures of performance, not just students' test results. Teachers, for example, are observed in their classrooms five times throughout the year and rated on nine explicit criteria that the district uses to define effective instruction, including how well they explain concepts and if they check for student understanding. School administrators also rate DCPS teachers on their support of school initiatives, their efforts to promote high expectations and their demonstration of core professionalism."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@HILUX


You keep posting this same lie that is easily dispelled if you read the article you linked.


I can only guess that you get paid to post the same anti teacher sentiments over and over again.

readcritic
readcritic

Educators need to make laws by which politicians will perform and be evaluated. Let's start with term limits, same insurance and dental coverage the general public has access to, satisfactory voting record and legislative attendance, etc. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Let's evaluate legislators on their work by the number of times the laws they write are broken.  And let's pay them based on that.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Speaking of bovine BS - He wants us to reference a country (finland) that is pretty much all white as your comparison - great job with the obfuscation!  Especially since it is our "majority-majority" schools that are having such massive issues...said no one who has an actual brain - ever.  And this is the type of person who our eduacracy looks to as their "thought leader".  Scary.


But come on....making teachers responsible for actual results?  Can't have that!  Much better that they be "subjectively evaluated" by their peers, or an admin that has to live/work w/ them going forward.  After all, the fact that so many of our schools are failing, while the teachers are getting "outstanding" evaluations, makes sense to everyone....well, except anyone who lives in the real world.


But keep pushing back on being objectively measured.  I'm sure the taxpayers, who live with being objectively measured every day, won't see anything wrong with your pushback.  


Wow, and you wonder why non-educators are finally saying enough is enough.  

dg417s
dg417s

@dcdcdc What you're telling us is that white students don't need to be tested but minority students do. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc


@dg417s @dcdcdc Says someone who likely is part of the eduacracy.  I guess reading comprehension isn't  big there?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@dcdcdc 

Finland, and its schools, aren't "all-white" any longer.  The migrants have swamped them.  Wonder what their "best practices" are now?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@dg417s @dcdcdc I guess it's that hard for you to figure out which of our schools have the biggest issue.  So I'll help you - it's without question not the ones that are majority white.  


And Finland is majority white.  So the comparison isn't valid.  


Now..was that really so hard to figure out on your own?


No, of course not.  But as with every good little lib, you tried to turn it into a racism thing.  Keep it up.  


Meanwhile, folks who actually care to make a positive difference, rather than just make PC points, will make actual real changes that the eduacracy is obviously incapable of making on their own.

dg417s
dg417s

@dcdcdc @dg417s You seem to argue that Finland doesn't need to test because they're majority white and since we're not, we need to test. I am a public school teacher. For what it's worth, my students tend to do quite well on the tests, but nevertheless, it's how the students do, not me. You will never hear me say don't evaluate me, however, the growth formulas are based on a formula that the American Statistical Association says should not be used for the purpose of evaluating teachers. Also, some bonus trivia for you, these growth measures are based in part on formulas used to predict cattle births. This is appropriate for evaluating me how?

CSpinks
CSpinks

How much "skin" would our kids have in our any of our proposed standardized testing-based teacher evaluation regimens?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CSpinks Based on the past, and using the farm metaphor, a big old goose egg.  Or squat.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady @CSpinks That our practicing colleagues would have more "skin in the game" than their test-taking students is not only problematic but also ludicrous.