Teacher: Student test scores should influence evaluations, along with classroom observations

Not all Georgia teachers object to student test scores influencing their annual ratings.

Here is one of those teachers. Kirk Shook has been a social studies teacher in Oconee County for nine years. He has served at the Georgia Department of Education on the Social Studies Resource Committee and the Georgia Performance Standards Revision Team for Economics. He is a Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year finalist for 2016.

This issue will be the focus of a hearing this afternoon by the House Education Committee, which is considering legislation changing how teacher are evaluated, including reducing the weight of student test scores.

The AJC is reporting this morning that Gov. Nathan Deal wants to  suppress any legislative overhaul of student testing and teacher evaluations. According to the AJC:

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators emailed an alert to its members early Tuesday, warning that Deal was calling members of the House Education committee about Senate Bill 364.

The governor “pressed them to hold SB 364 and to raise the emphasis of standardized testing in educator evaluation,” the email from PAGE, which has nearly 100,000 members, said. It said the governor “apparently” threatened to veto the bill.

With that background, here is the teacher essay.

By Kirk Shook

As a classroom teacher who works in a school system that was an early adopter of Georgia’s current teacher evaluation system, I have experienced firsthand how receiving quality feedback benefits both my students and me.

A teacher says students test scores should reflect back on teachers in their evaluations. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A teacher says students test scores should reflect back on teachers in evaluations. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

While the original evaluation system (CLASS Keys) that was rolled out in the days of state Superintendent Kathy Cox was quite onerous, the new evaluation tool used today is not near the burden — essentially, good teachers meet the criteria without having to “jump through hoops.” I just teach well and my administrators reflect that in the current evaluation tool.

My job is to make sure students in my classroom are learning. At the end of each year, they hopefully have learned the subject matter at hand and have also advanced their thinking and processing skills so that they can master what lies ahead.

While none of us enjoys the standardized tests that have been designed to measure student progress, it is hard to argue they do not provide an objective assessment as to where each student lies on the education continuum. And it is also hard to argue that teachers like me do not play a role in that outcome.

Like it or not, the growth of our students is part of our responsibility as teachers, which is why I have come to truly appreciate the feedback we receive through observation. Understanding my strengths and weaknesses has helped me become a more effective teacher — in my mind, being “satisfactory” is not good enough and that simple ranking even closes the door to discussing areas of improvement.

The new tiers in the current evaluation system help to provide greater feedback and provide a better opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with my principal on what goes on in my classroom. For me, it is an opportunity to show my administrators how much learning is going on in my classes and give them a better glimpse at student achievement beyond test scores.

I understand that not all teachers share my opinion, but I thought it was important to add a different perspective to this important conversation. Being a teacher is not an easy job, and I agree wholeheartedly that evaluations should be constructive, rather than punitive, which is what I believe we have in place today.

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

If Mr. Shook aint skeerd of test scores, I suggest he mosey on over to Cedar Shoals High School, work some of his magic in lower level classes, and get back to us.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Haha. 


An AP teacher who doesn't mind being evaluated by his students' test scores. 


Provide me with a respite.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Read up on this high school.  It is really special vis a vis parental income, percent gifted, percent remedial, racial composition, percent in AP classes.  Wow!


How things look depends on where you sit.

DisenchantedVoter
DisenchantedVoter

This educator is far from garden variety: he is the chair of the GA GOP and runs a political consulting firm on the side.

BRV
BRV

I was trying to figure out why an AP teacher would write such vacuous, straw-man filled nonsense. My hidden agenda radar went off while reading this tripe. Now I know why. Thanks for the info.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@redweather @MaureenDowney @DisenchantedVoter Not sure I agree. I have not listed the political affiliations of op-ed writers, including academics who are politically active in Athens on various causes. 

If they work with ed groups, it is relevant. But not sure it's relevant to say someone is active in the Democratic or Republican party in general.

I think it is relevant if an academic at UGA, for example, writing on the DREAM Act volunteers with Freedom University; but  I don't see how it is relevant to say they work actively with the local Democratic causes. 

The bills to reduce testing in teacher evals are being led by Republicans-- Dickson in the House, Tippins in the Senate -- so unsure what the implications are that the author of this piece is a longtime and active Republican. 


Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

I do not have a problem using test score for evaluations, but I want the tests to be valid and reliable. The SLOs ( or SOLs as I call them) and Milestones are not. 

HILUX
HILUX

Legislators: Tougher accountability standards for teachers improve 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

Dunstann
Dunstann

@HILUX 

Teachers' unions stirring the pot rather than embracing accountability is a sad situation. Parents and children trapped in failing schools will continue to insist on improvement.

dg417s
dg417s

@Dunstann @HILUX Show me schools in Georgia that are actually "failing" - meaning the building is falling down around the children. Who is failing? Is it the children? Why? Well, maybe if you look at where the students are struggling, they are in areas that high poverty (i.e. kids who are hungry and may not know where they're sleeping that night) or high minority, or both. We aren't doing right by the children and making sure that schools in every ZIP code are receiving the same resources and the children the same opportunities. That is a failure of the state, but yet the state wants to take over? They should be helping with the necessary resources to get these students where they can be.

Mom71555
Mom71555

@HILUX Legislators, PLEASE read the article cited above, where teachers were evaluated 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," along with   Teachers receiving a rating of "highly effective" for two years in a row are eligible for bonuses of up to $25,000, AND a PERMANENT $25,000 increase in salary!!!!  If the legislature puts the punitive aspects of this kind of evaluation in place WITHOUT the rewards--and continues the over-emphasis SOLELY on test results--they cannot expect the same results, as it will not even vaguely resemble the research design in this study!  Please note that in addition to the tests and observations, the " program includes data systems management, communications, careful training of raters on the district's structured rubrics and ongoing support of teacher improvement (for example, instructional coaches)," all of which are costly and require MANY additional administrators and other personnel!  We have previously seen how reluctant legislators are to honor their promises of additional compensation (i.e., teachers who were promised that if they went through the rigorous process of National Board Certification, they would receive a raise for 10 years).  So no, this one won't happen!!  Sorry, HILUX!

readcritic
readcritic

When the feedback is meant to be constructive and it is given to help the teacher and not intended to be punitive, that would be a good thing; however, that is not how TKES is being used by many administrators. Faculty members are told that they will be marked with 2's only (on a scale of 1 being poor to 4 being distinguished). Faculty meetings are used to scare and threaten teachers into submission to administrative whims. Keep in mind, the administrator has the power to write anything into a teacher's evaluation without recourse. Not only that, but the administrator also has the power to schedule the teacher's classes. The teacher who is not "in favor" with the administrator will be given classes of 35+ students who are far below grade level proficiency; have parole officers and ankle bracelets; anger management counselors; prison records; truancy; pregnancy; discipline histories from previous states, schools, and classes; three-time grade repeaters with failing grades in all other classes all along with the maximum 8 special ed students in every class. This teacher does not receive any extra pay for having such a rough schedule year after year and does not have the opportunity to choose students and classes. This teacher is evaluated on the same scale or even more harshly than another "favored" teacher who has small classes of IB and AP students who care about school and their grades.  Even though the teacher with the rough schedule and classes shows remarkable achievement scores despite the scheduling "set-up" and little to no administrative support with discipline issues, the administrator uses TKES to go after the teacher. This teacher is expected to perform glitsy lessons that enthrall the students every moment of every day. If one student is even slightly off-task for any reason during the observation, the evaluation reflects bad comments and scores. The teacher is further punished by being put on a never-ending Professional Development Plan in which the terms and conditions are constantly changed to make it more difficult to meet the requirements of satisfying. This ultimately leads to a loss of salary and a non-renewal of the teaching certificate by the state Professional Standards Commission. There is no fair and equitable way to create an evaluation unless all the variables can be considered and noted. The current evaluation system does not account for the class sizes or make-up of types of students. No special circumstances are noted and the teacher cannot challenge the evaluation. The TKES instrument is totally subjective and often completed by vindictive and biased administrators who haven't taught in years. It is little wonder why teachers are leaving the profession as their workload is being made impossible and their careers are being destroyed.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@readcritic The really awful principal we had when KEYS was first coming out actually CROWED about how no one would do well on it.


The funny part was, she had been kicked up out of the classroom after only a few years into "management" of the buses due to her poor work. Then she got kicked out of that, changed systems, and became an asst principal then principal, literally making many teachers sick, before the superintendent finally agreed to dismiss her.  She is a "consultant" now and not allowed back in the school.

readcritic
readcritic

@Wascatlady @readcritic My small district has one like that now. She was appointed as principal because she was popular in the community. She demanded everything be done her way and drove away so many teachers with her acts of favoritism and vindictive bullying that she was moved to a meaningless position until retirement. They found another equally incompetent principal to replace her. It seems that the Peter Principal is alive and well.

BuddhaBeth
BuddhaBeth

This is from a teacher,in a great school system , who teaches AP Gov. classes. His students are not the status quo that the majority of teachers have in their classrooms.

readcritic
readcritic

@BuddhaBeth Remember the story about the baker who bragged about his wonderful blueberry muffins. He was given the best flour and the freshest blueberries and got to bake in the best kitchen. Another baker was expected to make the same quality muffin with stale flour, spoiled blueberries, and broken appliances. He could not return the bad products or exchange working conditions. Guess who made the best product. Even doctors cannot make patients take their medication or follow the prescribed health plan, but teachers are expected to perform miracles with unwilling and poorly prepared participants who were passed along year after year.

Peter_Smagorinsky
Peter_Smagorinsky

Kids in Oconee County tend to be far more affluent than the state average. Affluent kids do better on standardized tests than poor kids. Teachers of affluent kids therefore consider tests to be fair measures of teaching effectiveness, and even "objective" measures that others are not living up to. These arguments tend to be provided by those who start out on second or third base and can't figure out why others can't get out of the batter's box except to assume it's all a matter of teaching quality.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Peter_Smagorinsky As I recall, affluent families flee Clarke County and generally move to Oconee, which IS quite a bit different.


This essay reminds me of the guy my system put in charge of the RTI process for awhile.  His experience in teaching?  AP Calculus!  A very good calculus teacher, he had NO IDEA of the real world, and certainly knew nothing about low-achieving elementary school kids!


I LOL when I read the introduction to him.

athensareateacher
athensareateacher

I agree with Mr. Shook in theory. The old evaluation tool provided little feedback. The new tool does provide more specific feedback. However, I must disagree with the use of standardized test scores when calculating a teacher's TKES score.

I also believe teachers play a significant role in their students growth. However, I can not support the use of SLOs as standardized test scores.

Our children are over tested. I've seen what excessive standardized testing has done to our students. As a parent of two children in Oconee county schools (one at North Oconee who benefited from Mr. Shook's AP class), I worry about what we are doing to our children for the sake of teacher accountability.

I don't believe we are making decisions about assessment of students based on students's needs. In particular, I believe SLOs were added for the sole purpose of ensuring every teacher had a "standardized" test score - holding ever teacher accountable. SLOs are not valid assessments in the same way an AP Government test is a valid standardized assessment. Until we have created valid assessments for all content areas, I believe the use of these scores is not appropriate. And even then...what is the motivation behind the tests. I don't need an SLO to tell me about my students' strengths and weaknesses. I teach music. My observations of their performance tell me everything I need to know.

TKES is flawed. One size does not fit all. Mr. Shook is a great teacher. However, I'm really not surprised Mr. Shook, an AP teacher in Oconee County, would be on board with the current evaluation tool. Drive 15 minutes into Clarke county or 35 minutes into Gwinnett or Oglethorpe counties and talk to teachers dealing with poverty. I'm quite certain the perspective will be different.

Teachers from all subject areas should be at the table in any discussions surrounding the development or reform of teacher evaluation tools. This includes AP Government teachers, Kindergarten teachers, Chorus directors, Pysical education teachers, etc.

Thank you for sharing your perspective Mr. Shook. I really do wish I could agree.

2013SummitTeam
2013SummitTeam

@ajc let me guess...he wants to get a job in admin and get out of the classroom ASAP.

redweather
redweather

This is really short of specifics. Can you provide an example or two of how these tools aid both you and your administrators?