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Good News! Hawaii Drops Test-Based Teacher Evaluation!

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The test-based teacher evaluation that was a hallmark of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top is slowly sinking into the ocean (or the desert).


Not only did New York teacher Sheri Lederman have her rating overturned by a judge who said the state’s evaluation system was “arbitrary and capricious” (it was designed and defended by State Commissioner John King, now Secretary of Education), but Hawaii just eliminated test-based teacher evaluation. Hawaii won a Race to the Top grant and was required by the rules of the competition to adopt a test-based teacher evaluation system. They did, it never worked, it angered teachers, and it is gone.


The state Board of Education unanimously approved recommendations Tuesday effectively removing standardized test scores as a requirement in the measurement of teacher performance, according to a press release from the state Department of Education.



The recommendations, which were subsequently approved by Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, will offer more flexibility to incorporate and weigh different components of teacher performance evaluation, although the option to use test scores in performance evaluation remains.



The recommendations originated from members of a joint committee between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and DOE, established by the most recent collective bargaining agreement in 2013. Vice Chairperson of the BOE Brian De Lima said that since then, the committee has conducted ongoing reviews and improvements to the evaluation system.



“There was a continuous evolution to make things better so teachers don’t spend all their time involved in the evaluation process, particularly when they’ve already been (rated) highly effective or effective,” De Lima said. “And the teachers being mentored who may need additional work, they’re getting the attention and the support so they stay interested in remaining in the profession — the most important profession.”



Formerly, teachers in Hawaii were beholden to curriculum and standards developed with little or none of their input by entities HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso described as “corporate philanthropists.” These entities, namely the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, have had sway in setting teacher performance standards, developed testing for those standards and profiting from the system, she said.



Teaching effectiveness, then, was rated on student understanding of curriculum teachers themselves didn’t develop but were forced by the administration to implement. Performance of teachers was also rated on aggregated test scores of every student participant — the majority of whom individual teachers never had in their own classrooms.



“The teacher evaluation system served as a control mechanism,” said Perruso, who also teaches social studies at Mililani High School on Oahu. “If you don’t follow the guidelines, you won’t be rated as ‘effective.’ That’s why what happened (Tuesday) was so critical. It gives teachers back a modicum of power. We’re no longer completely held under the thumb of principals because they can’t use test scores against us anymore.”

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