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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Olympia Should Reject Federal Mandate on Teacher Evaluations

Posted by on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Caving to pressure from US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Governor Jay Inslee is urging legislators to amend Washington state's teacher and principal evaluation rules to take into account student test scores. At risk is a waiver that gives the state control over how to spend $40 million in No Child Left Behind money.

Legislators will probably accede. But Democrats should say "No." And for two distinct reasons.

First, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores is just bad policy based on bad science. It incentivizes teachers to teach to the test at the expense of the broader educational curriculum and experience. And, there is simply no reliable evidence that student test scores provide a relevant metric for evaluating teacher performance. Indeed, a recent analysis of "value added" data (measuring the value a teacher adds to their students' standardized test performance) from the New York City Public Schools found little or no correlation between teacher performance from one class to another or from year to year. Indeed, across classrooms and time, the value added data was almost entirely random.

The second reason to reject the federal mandate—and just as important—is that Washington's current teacher evaluation system is the result of a lengthy and intense collaboration between teachers, principals, administrators, and lawmakers. We have spent years both debating a teacher evaluation system and building a consensus to sustain it. Overhauling teacher evaluations once again, at the whim of federal regulators, would be unnecessarily disruptive to both our schools and our political process.

Yes, $40 million in federal money is at stake. Perhaps we'll lose some control over how to spend it. But that is a small price to pay for maintaining the integrity and stability of the teacher evaluation system we have struggled hard to put into place.

 

Comments (10) RSS

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1
The state probably won't "lose" the $40 million, they would just lose flexibility in how it can be spent. Even so, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion that the state Supreme Court has ordered be put into K-12 schools. So even if the feds yanked that money, we should just backfill it and add it to the McCleary total.

Tying teacher evaluations to test scores will be extremely damaging for our schools, forcing teachers to teach to the test and narrow the curriculum to exclude everything that can't be tested - in other words, everything that is actually useful for kids once they graduate. Good education has nothing to do with testing and the sooner we accept that, the better off our kids will be.
Posted by junipero on February 27, 2014 at 12:21 PM · Report this
2
'The teach the test thing doesn't make sense, I did a bunch of these tests in high school and jr high. All they do is test your skills in subjects you have learned a lot of it is pretty basic. So as long as teachers teach they should be good. We keep falling further and further back in world rankings in education, maybe some nationalizing of education would be good.
Posted by dkjndmsahksdhksal on February 27, 2014 at 12:29 PM · Report this
3
@2: If only it were true that performance on these tests predicted future performance. Sadly, it does not. Grades are a far better predictor than the test scores.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 27, 2014 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 4
Plus the average Washingtonian is not the sharpest pencil in the box. Nor are we wizards at picking the smartest leaders.

Odds are, if somebody besides us decides where to spend the $40 million, that somebody will not do worse than we'd have done. We're the people who dig car tunnels -- in 2014! If we could be trusted with $40 million we'd have higher test scores.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on February 27, 2014 at 1:10 PM · Report this
5
Also, our standings in world rankings are invalid. These world tests are given to aspiring college students in other countries; here, in our system, EVERY student takes the test. Therefore, our scores are lower than the rest of the world mainly because the tested group is different. If you only take the college-bound students into account, our world standings are quite competitive, actually.

As a teacher, tying the state test to my evaluation is ludicrous. State tests are only given every couple-four years. How can a student's scores be tied to MY teaching exclusively when it is actually a combination of multiple teacher's work?
Posted by paulus22 on February 27, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
6
School districts would loose flexibility with Fed. dollars, but there are also costs involved with linking teacher evaluations to test scores. $40M divided between 295 school districts is not an enormous amount of funding. It would be prudent for school districts to map out costs. Fed. dollars might actually cost school district dollars out of operating budgets.
Posted by Not a fan on February 27, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Simac 7
a) Teachers already teach to the test. What planet are you on? That ship has sailed.

b) I used to be against including student test performance in teacher reviews/compensation, but then my kid went to public school and I saw first hand what nonsense goes on, and now I think student performance MUST be included in SOME way in teacher evaluations and compensation. Something possibly fairer than class-by-class performance might be cohort-by-cohort performance or even school-wide performance for all teachers at a given school.

c) Principals make staffing decisions, so school-wide student test scores should be included overtly in any principal's compensation package. The principal is deciding who is teaching and who is teaching what--and with that responsibility should come serious financial negatives to the principal when a school is underperforming, even a little.

d) Class sizes are too big in Seattle. Education can't really improve here until class sizes are reduced to no more than 15/teacher at primary level. I think it's odd how off the radar that issue is, but authentic change is not realistic with the class sizes we have right now. Even superb teachers just don't have the bandwidth to teach 25+ kids within the allotted time.
Posted by Simac on February 27, 2014 at 3:20 PM · Report this
TheRain 8
"a) Teachers already teach to the test. What planet are you on? That ship has sailed."

It's not really possible to say that with certainty, though, since we've changed to the Common Core assessments and the Smarter Balanced Testing. I don't have a curriculum aligned to Common Core, nor do I have any evidence to go on that the testing is going to match the standards since we've never given this test before.

"b) I used to be against including student test performance in teacher reviews/compensation, but then my kid went to public school and I saw first hand what nonsense goes on, and now I think student performance MUST be included in SOME way in teacher evaluations and compensation. Something possibly fairer than class-by-class performance might be cohort-by-cohort performance or even school-wide performance for all teachers at a given school."

Those tests will miss the following teachers: pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, PE, music, art, health, social studies, shop, ag, all the instructional coaches, SLPs, PTs, and most of the other specializations. What you'll be doing is taking a big, steaming dump on 4th grade teachers and math instructors.

The other aspect of that is that it would be just stupid to figure in reading scores to the evaluation of a PE teacher. Not that OSPI hasn't floated that idea, but it doesn't make it any less foolish.

"c) Principals make staffing decisions, so school-wide student test scores should be included overtly in any principal's compensation package. The principal is deciding who is teaching and who is teaching what"

This statement has no basis in reality.

Posted by TheRain on February 27, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
9
Serious, @7? Do you not realize that student test scores are most closely correlated with income? They have virtually nothing to do with teaching, aside from very small bump in test scores in places that spend months doing test prep (like KIPP charter schools in TX, FL, schools in states that have already forced test scores to be a significant part of teacher evals hence they do loads of test prep).

Here's how the growth measures some proponents like to tout affect teachers (find the story about the teacher of the gifted kids):
https://www.naesp.org/principal-januaryf…

Here's the disaster that is Florida (courtesy of Jeb Bush) and evaluating teachers via test scores of students THEY'VE NEVER TAUGHT: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answ…

And NY...http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answ…

Comparing teachers http://vamboozled.com/?p=794

The whole test score/teacher eval push is just another means to force a fake and improbable accountability upon public education in general, and public school teachers in particular. Plus Arne Duncan is an absolute fucking idiot who makes decisions solely based on ideology rather than anything with a (peer-reviewed) research base. What a jackass.
Posted by StuckInUtah on February 27, 2014 at 6:13 PM · Report this
10
Goldy, here's a third reason: the cost of the additional tests that would be required is much greater than the $40 million. There isn't even a money reason to do this.
Posted by Charlie Mas on February 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM · Report this

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