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States Are Reassessing Their Teacher Evaluation Systems, But Issues Will Likely Persist

Many states are actively reassessing their teacher evaluation systems in order to more accurately gauge teaching performance. Some states have taken steps to de-emphasize the weight of student standardized test scores in their teacher evaluation formulas. However, even states that have downplayed test scores in their formulas have had issues with ensuring that teachers are being assessed in a consistent and fair manner.

In some states, nearly 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on their students' test scores. In Albuquerque, NM, Governor Susana Martinez vowed to make changes to the current teacher evaluation formula, according to the Associate Press. Her administration's proposal is looking to lower the weight of student scores on teacher evaluations from 50 percent to 35 percent, which would match the weighting given to classroom observation.

However, Charles Bowyer from the National Education Association-New Mexico said to the AP that student test scores should not play a factor in teacher evaluations. He encouraged the New Mexico Public Education Department to "find more appropriate measures of teachers' impact on student achievement," according to the AP.

Meanwhile in Ohio, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria is looking to reduce the significance student test scores play in teacher evaluations. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's Educator Standards Board recommends that "test results and other measurements would be an 'embedded' part of the other parts of the evaluation, like classroom visits and discussions with the principal or evaluator."

State educators and officials both agree that the purpose of the evaluation should be to help teachers learn how they can better improve their instruction. With that in mind, the Educator Standards Board proposed the following changes: "updating the scoring rubric, embedding student growth measures, eliminating 'shared attribution, changing the timing and goal of observations and finally eliminating the no-evaluation years for top-rated teachers," according to the article.

In Florida's Pinellas County, the issue isn't with the overemphasis of student growth scores in its teacher evaluation formula, but rather with its demanding teacher observation rating model. A whopping 57 percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on four classroom observations that are conducted by the school's principal or assistant principal. However the, administrators' teacher effectiveness ratings are not aligning with the ratings derived from student performance on state assessments. Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, recently wrote a letter to district superintendents about this ratings disparity. He pointed out that at one school, "28 teachers...received a highly effective score on student growth, but just one teacher was rated highly effective by an administrator," according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Deputy superintendent Bill Corbett acknowledged that the evaluation system would produce inconsistencies between student test scores and teacher observation scores, but cautioned against focusing "too closely at any one segment and instead examine the overall teacher evaluation scores." He told the Times that “[i]n the ideal world we hope that it would always be equal.... The reality is they probably won’t always be accurate to get to that point.”


Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor and Richard Conklin, Education World Editor

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