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Madeline Will wrote in Education Week that many states plan to resume teacher evaluations, despite the pandemic and the difficulties of teaching remotely and/or in-person. Some will incorporate student test scores, which is absurd. Many teachers believe this is unfair, since teaching conditions are adverse. Unfortunately, Will relied on the “National Council on Teacher Quality” for its “expertise.” This is an organization launched by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation that has no professional credibility and that issues an annual rating of teacher education programs based on its reading of course catalogues and on whether the programs offer instruction in Common Core, for example.
The best authority on VAM in the nation is Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State University, who earned her Ph.D. as a student of David Berliner and Gene Glass. She has written the definitive studies of test-based teacher evaluation. Her blog VAMboozled! is the go-to place for updates on this fraudulent evaluation method.
If Joe Biden is elected, one of the first things his Secretary of Education should do is to give blanket waivers are annual federal testing in grades 3-8 and urge states to eliminate any teacher evaluations based on test scores. Test-based teacher evaluations were enacted into state law solely to qualify for a chance to win some share of the billions attached to Race to the Top. Ten years ago, the research on value-added assessment (VAM) was almost non-existent but then Secretary Arne Duncan insisted on its validity. In the past decade, VAM has proven to be unreliable, invalid and unstable. Every state should repeal the laws they passed at Duncan’s urging.
For many teachers, stress levels are at an all-time high this year, as they navigate remote lessons, socially distanced classrooms, or a combination of the two. And there’s yet another looming stressor: teacher evaluations.
“You would think that given everything that’s changing and everything that’s brand new to teachers, that they would have figured out a way to skip a year,” said Kristin Brown, a high school math and computer science teacher in Wisconsin. As a teacher, she added, you shouldn’t have to “defend yourself and prove that you’re an effective educator in a pandemic.”
In the spring, nearly half of states eased evaluation requirements or issued flexibility or guidance for school districts, and teachers’ unions are arguing for more of that as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
So far, at least 17 states have released guidance on teacher evaluations this year, according to an analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Most states are still requiring teacher evaluations in some capacity, although Mississippi has suspended the requirement for districts to submit annual employee performance data, and Illinois has told districts they will not be penalized if they don’t conduct summative evaluations this year.
While some administrators and other experts say evaluations and observations are crucial to providing valuable feedback and support, many teachers say it’s unfair to make potentially high-stakes job-performance decisions when they’re navigating new technologies, adjusting to different methods of teaching, and trying to reach students who might not have reliable internet access or stability at home. They worry that evaluations this year, particularly those that include student growth data, won’t be reflective of teachers’ abilities, since students’ lives and learning have been so disrupted.
Shannon Holston, the director for teacher policy at NCTQ, said she expects more states to release guidance in the coming weeks. For those that have already, “it seems a number of states understand that this is not a normal year and have tried to adjust requirements for evaluations while still really focusing on the observation and feedback component,” Holston said.
For example, Colorado and Ohio will not incorporate student growth data in teacher evaluations at all this school year. And districts in Connecticut and Oregon can use social and emotional learning or student engagement measures in evaluations this year instead of academic measures to show student growth.
Massachusetts has streamlined its evaluation rubric to focus on six priorities, and Washington state has reduced the number of criteria required for comprehensive evaluations from eight to two. The rest of the evaluation score will be based on the teacher’s previous score...
New Jersey had to tweak its student growth percentile formula because there were no statewide assessments last year from which to collect data. Instead, teachers and administrators this year are responsible for setting goals for students and assessing whether they’ve met those goals by the end of the year. This objective will make up 15 percent of teachers’ evaluation rating, while the observations or the portfolio of practice will make up the remaining 85 percent...
A new law in Indiana says that schools are no longer required to use state test scores when evaluating teachers. But Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said he has heard some districts are still planning to use test scores this year—which the union is against. Gambill said local associations will be working with those districts to try to eliminate test scores from evaluations...
Teachers are limited with how they can react to unexpected challenges during remote classes, said Gambill, of the Indiana state teachers’ union.
“If technology freezes or there’s an issue with connectivity, that’s not something you can course-correct for in the same way you could if everyone is in person,” he said.
Teachers say they welcome coaching and feedback. [Monise] Seward [a special education teacher in Georgia] said she’d find it more helpful to have another teacher observe her class, so she can get feedback from someone who’s currently in the trenches with remote instruction. Mostly, Brown said, teachers want to be afforded professional trust that they’re doing their best possible work under challenging circumstances.
“The sentiment out there is that teachers are drowning, and day to day we might have our heads above water for a little bit of time, but the next minute we’re gasping for air,” she said. “What can I give up, and what can I do differently, so that I’m always above water? Once we’re in this for a while, we’ll get a routine going. Just let us get our feet under us before jumping in.”