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NY Teacher Evaluation Up in the Air with 20% of Students Opting Out

Basis of NY Teacher Evaluations is Up in the Air with 20% of Students Opting Out

With the official announcement that 20% of students in the state of New York opted out from standardized exams this testing season, many are wondering what that means for teacher evaluations that are supposed to be partly based on the scores.

The result of over 220,000 students refraining from taking the exams is a bitter debate about what this means for both teacher evaluations and Title IV funding in districts that saw the biggest opt-out numbers.

"[U]nions and the State Education Department have battled over how districts should handle teacher evaluations in the absence of test scores, with the union saying scores should be thrown out entirely and the state saying a backup measure should be used," said Politico New York.

Though the state's teacher evaluation system will be significantly different next year than it is now, as a result of changes from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  As it currently stands, teacher effectiveness is 20% based on student scores from state tests and 20% on student scores from local tests.

"Each teacher also receives a 'growth score', a state-produced calculation that quantifies students’ year-to-year improvement on standardized tests, while controlling for factors like poverty. Those growth scores must be based on no fewer than 16 test scores, but with the high number of opt-outs, some schools didn’t even have that," the article said.

And so, many school districts are generating growth scores using back-up student learning objectives, decided before the school year began as alternatives to using state exam scores.

While many districts had anticipated high opt-out scores based on the increase of opt-outs from year to year, some did not have that same anticipation and therefore did not formulate alternative SLOs in the beginning of last year's school year, putting them in somewhat of purgatory when it comes to producing meaningful evaluations.

"If a district with high numbers of opt-outs is unable to arrive at a solution, it might be subjected to loss of funding as well as other kinds of sanctions," said the state's Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

In Dolgeville district, which saw some of the highest opt-out rates in the state thanks to a parent-led opposition movement, superintendent Christine Reynolds is worried that her children's civil rights will be threatened by a loss of funding.

"'Title I funding from the federal government is intended to go to schools that have higher levels of poverty to level the playing field, and if they withheld money from schools for what a parent decided for their child, I would think that would be a direct violation of our children’s civil rights,' Reynolds said," according to Politico New York.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

08/17/2015

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