Education groups to lawmakers: De-emphasize test scores in teacher ratings

Leading education and parent groups sent a joint letter to House Education Committee Members today endorsing the testing and evaluation reforms contained in Senate Bill 364.

There will be a public hearing Wednesday on the bill, which lowers the weight of test scores in teacher and principal evaluations and reduces the overall number of tests given in Georgia.

Under current law, half of a teacher’s review is based on student scores on state exams. Senate Education Chairman Lindsey Tippins lowers the weight of test scores to 30 percent in SB 364. The bill passed the Georgia Senate unanimously and was reviewed last week on detail by the House Education Committee.

For another view on this issue, take a look at this entry I posted last night.

Here is the letter:

Georgia’s 1.7 million students deserve to learn from educators who are committed to every student’s academic progress, their development as critical thinkers, and their ability to pursue creative expression.

testartOur state’s current testing and evaluation programs are a disservice to students and educators. Overreliance on testing interferes with the delivery of quality educational experiences to students, and the amount of testing alone takes away from instructional time. Our children deserve opportunities for classes like music, art, and physical education. These classes help develop the whole child, but are not easily evaluated by a test.

Georgia’s students also deserve to learn from experienced, high-quality educators. Basing 70% and 50% of administrator and teacher evaluations on test scores narrows the focus of evaluations and fails to account for many other factors that lead to successful classrooms and school buildings. As a result, these evaluation policies are contributing to escalating educator attrition rates in Georgia and frustrating many students and their parents.

In an effort to help Georgia’s students and improve Georgia’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality educators, we jointly support the student testing and educator evaluation reforms proposed in the version of SB 364 which passed the Georgia Senate on Feb. 26.

Though the education advocacy organizations signed here will individually submit positions on SB 364 and may suggest small changes to the legislation, we stand together in support of SB 364’s core reforms: rethinking student testing and de-emphasizing testing in educator evaluation.

We jointly recommend against raising the emphasis on testing in educator performance evaluation beyond the 30% for teachers and 40% for school leaders proposed in the version of SB 364 which passed the Senate. This iteration of SB 364 also allows local school districts necessary latitude to build additional student growth measures into the educator evaluation system as part of the district’s flexibility contract, should the districts choose.

We look forward to collaborating with state leaders on meeting the needs of Georgia students and preparing those students for a bright future. In order to do so, it is critical that we work together to reform Georgia’s student testing and educator evaluation programs now.

Signed,

Professional Association of Georgia Educators

Georgia Association of Educators

Georgia Association of Educational Leaders

Georgia Parent Teacher Association Georgia School Boards Association

Georgia School Superintendents Association

Teachers Rally to Advocate Georgia Insurance Choices

 

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27 comments
dg417s
dg417s

I attended the Atlanta Board of Education meeting yesterday. Mr. Westmoreland basically said he got a great education in APS but other APS students don't, so they had to pass the reorganization plan. What he really said is that APS can't do its job, so they have to contract out to the lowest bidder to do their job for them.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Starik You're obviously an "outside agitator" who's attempting to embarrass our beloved GA educracy in its quest for high-cost, questionable-validity and -reliability testing.

redweather
redweather

@Starik I suspect the vast majority of them do and say what they think they need to do and say in order to teach their subject and maintain control of their classroom.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

So...tests not shown to be valid or reliable, written at minimal cost, will determine about a THIRD of a teacher's evaluation, yet that same teacher has NO ABILITY to influence the 80-90% of the test score not explainable by which teacher the student had???  And the student does not have to even make an effort on the test?Yeah, that makes so much sense !<sarc>


So, let's let  5 year olds write state laws, and then let's pay the legislators (who are forced to pass the laws) based on compliance with the laws.  In fact, one third of their pay (and perks) will be decided by compliance on the laws written by the 5 year olds!  While we are at it, we will also base part of their pay on how much those who get caught breaking the laws "like" the laws.


Makes sense to me, and we would sure cut down on expenses for the legislature!

jerryeads
jerryeads

Let's remember that the cheaply-made minimum competency tests a contractor knocks out every year under low bid with question writers who never have and never will see a classroom have been shown in refereed research over and over and over and over and over again to do nothing more than force teachers to teach to the few kids in a class at the "cut point" for the test. 

The smart kids can be ignored because they'll pass the tests anyway, and the really disadvantaged kids can be left to blow in the wind as it doesn't matter what you do, they're going to fail anyway.

The only thing that counts is to get the maximum percentage of kids in a classroom to pass some arbitrarily and capriciously set bar (NO research has EVER been done to determine whether the "pass level" has anything whatsoever to do with success in real life). Minimum competency testing (i.e., Millstones) does nothing more than narrow teaching to a few kids. Assuming there's a 9 in 10 chance your kids aren't in that group, is that what you REALLY want for them?

If the legislators we elect (it IS our fault) are too bloody incompetent to cut the knees out from under our testing insanity, your best bet is to make sure your kids don't take the tests. Keep 'em home on test days. Schools don't dare punish them. That way, perhaps in a few years we can finally move on and actually work on how to make our schools better.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@jerryeads Unlike most contributors to this blog (and too, too many folks employed in GaPubEd), Dr. Eades has the courage of his convictions. Jerry Eades puts his name on his comments.

proudparent01
proudparent01

Since the 2013 law (HB 244) mandating SLOs and the evaluation system based on growth, there has been an explosion of state mandated testing in Georgia. Let it be known that this bill is an improvement but it doesn't decrease testing. Most of the state tests that will be removed will require districts to create and administer multiple SLOs which will most likely be poorly designed. 

dg417s
dg417s

My principal sent out a group email stating that it is "vital that what is being taught in the classroom is the same as what is being assessed on the tests." In other words - teach to the test. It's sad that that is what education has become. Test test and test some more. To quote Dr. King, "The funtcion of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." Let's just be honest here - if in 1970, we had a room full of people educated under the current testing is all that matters model, I think three men would have been lost in space on Apollo XIII because no one would have known how to think outside the box and come up with the solution that they did to bring those astronauts home safely. We have been so focused on the wrong goal - a test score - that we have truly lost sight of what we are supposed to be doing for our children.


That being said, do we do away with tests? No. As NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia stated "We're not afraid of tests. We invented them." Yes, we need to assess student learning, but we have lost focus on how we assess and what we get from those assessments. I've stated several times that the best way to show student learning is through showing what students can do. I recommend that a program be devised to randomly select students with 80 or 90% attendance and teachers would submit a portfolio of student work for evaluation. That would show how the student has progressed through the course and also show the rigor and types of assignments that teachers are using in the classroom. We could pick 4 or 5 students per teacher and have professionally trained educators evaluate the student work and progress. It would mean some work for the teachers to ensure that they have the portfolios ready to go, but it would be a true measure of what students can do after spending a semester or year with a particular teacher.

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

@dg417s Ah, the "old" portfolio approach!  I actually think it has merit.  And it would affect fewer kids.  Just take a cross-section with adequate attendance.  I like it.  What have we got to lose at this point?  We've exhausted other remedies.


HILUX
HILUX

Dear Legislators: 

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

Sadly, the anti-accountability crowd is persistent in trying to shout down reforms. 

redweather
redweather

@HILUX Sadly you keep leaving out one of the most important parts of this study, but you know that. The fact that you keep doing this tells me you are somebody's operative, although why they would bother posting comments here is beyond me.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@HILUX The study actually found that teachers performed better when given the opportunity to earn $25,000 bonuses and permanent pay raises of up to $25,000 per year. This is in a district with a starting salary of $50,000.


It seems out of character for you to recommend for Georgia teachers, a starting pay of $50k, and permanent salary increases of $25K, but stranger things have happened.

Mom71555
Mom71555

@HILUX @AvgGeorgian I see two HUGE differences in the study and what Georgia is considering:


"IMPACT's teacher performance assessments are based on multiple measures of performance, NOT JUST STUDENTS' TEST RESULTS. " (emphasis mine)


"Teachers eligible for increases in base pay as a result of being rated highly effective twice also showed strong improvement relative to high performing teachers not eligible for the pay increases."  So teachers rated equally effective were motivated by pay increases.  When is the Georgia legislature going to come up with the $25,000 PERMANENT pay increase that motivated these teachers?!  I vote for that!


 In addition, "There have been a number of previous studies of financial incentive programs, including tests of pilot programs in Nashville, New York City and Chicago, and they have not yielded evidence of meaningful change in teacher performance. Some researchers speculate that those programs didn't offer big enough rewards and that THEY FOCUSED TOO NARROWLY ON TEST SCORES RATHER THEN THE INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES THAT  TEACHERS CAN CONTROL MORE DIRECTLY." (emphasis mine)


I don't know of many teachers who do not welcome a fair and unbiased assessment of their teaching!  But to link teacher quality to a test that has NOT been proven valid OR reliable is ludicrous!   


Hey, I hope the legislators DO read the article--less focus on test scores, huge financial incentives to perform well--that's a win-win situation for teachers and students alike!!!!

CSpinks
CSpinks

@redweather @HILUX What is "one of the most important parts of the study?" And why is this part so important?

CSpinks
CSpinks

@redweather @HILUX Too bad that some folks commenting on this blog value anonymity more than they value mutual respect.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Mom71555 @HILUX @AvgGeorgian A statement by the American Statistical Association in a recent Horace Mann blog noted that the VAM studies were of the "low-stakes" variety. These studies didn't involve financial incentives for their participating teachers, according to ASA.

redweather
redweather

@CSpinks @Mom71555 @HILUX @AvgGeorgian  "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. In contrast, teachers who are unable to achieve an "effective" rating after two years are dismissed."


There may well be VAM studies that didn't involve financial incentives, but that is not true for the one discussed here:  

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