There is a Teacher Evaluation Bill SB 5895 which ties test scores to teacher evaluations. At this time the teachers union in the state of Washington has been working with OSPI on an evaluation system that was set forth to be developed in last years legislation. Now certain legislators want to ratchet it up a notch and tie a large percentage of the evaluation to student test scores.

Let’s start with a great video that distills this issue down to the point where even a politician who knows nothing about public education could understand it. This video describes why merit pay isn’t a good idea but more importantly describes why the idea of teacher evaluations based on test scores is flawed.

In Seattle we have the MAP test that was instituted at the cost of millions of dollars thanks to our former Broad superintendent who was on the board of directors of the NWEA which produces the MAP test. This test, as NWEA has stated, was not designed to be used to evaluate a teacher’s performance but that is exactly what the intention is or at least was when Goodloe-Johnson was our superintendent.

Since the pilot program that all the ed-reformers in our state applauded, it has now been instituted in our schools. Then last month NWEA “re-calibrated” all of the test scores that had been taken for the last year and guess what? The administrators within SPS stated to use the term “negative growth” when describing test scores. Now I don’t know about you but, I have never seen anyone have “negative growth” in terms of a knowledge base unless there was an unfortunate accident or disease affecting mental ability but that’s how it was phrased. All test scores went down. Hmmm. Now if this was New York City today, everyone would be blaming the teachers and starting the witch hunt of who should be placed on the pyre first.

To read a discussion regarding this testing snafu, check out Seattle Schools Community Forum.

In New York a similar teacher evaluation bill was passed last week to the applause of corporate ed reformers. Diane Ravitch termed it firing our way to the top in her article A Dark Day for New York:

In New York, the politicians, the union leaders, and the media are all exchanging high fives over last week’s agreement about teacher evaluation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo took credit for forcing the parties to settle. But it’s a dark day when politicians impose an untested scheme on educators, despite a wealth of evidence that these schemes are inaccurate, unstable, and have negative consequences and no evidence that they improve education. See this and this. If we were serious about improving education for all children, we would take a broader view of the causes of and remedies for low achievement.But the politicians have decided to solve our education problems not by looking at root causes but by firing teachers. They feel certain that we can fire our way to the top. In 2010, New York won a Race to the Top award of $700 million. To obtain this money—very little, if any, of which will ever reach any classroom or student—New York said it would devise a teacher evaluation plan that was based in part on student test scores. Although this idea finds little support among testing experts, it is an obsession with the current U.S. Department of Education. The winning New York proposal, in order to get the support of the teachers’ unions, said that 20 percent of teachers’ evaluations would be tied to student scores.

When states determine that test scores should count for 20 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent or some other percent, this is a purely arbitrary decision. There is no research, no experience, no evidence whatsoever that identifies what portion, if any, of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on the increase in their students’ test scores.

And then this:

But back to the politics: In addition to the parties involved, charter school supporters hailed the agreement, which was odd because teachers in charter schools will not be subject to its provisions.

The New York Principals, a group that formed in response to the ongoing emphasis on test scores as an evaluation tool, responded with this position paper An Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York States APPR Legislation for the Evaluation of Teachers and Principals. Many of the points in this paper can be used to explain to our legislators exactly why SB 5895 is not what we want for our children.

This testing mania and basing teacher ratings on student test scores has gotten out of control as in New York City where teacher’s ratings based on test scores has been released in the New York Times and other news outlets. Mass hysteria has broken out in New York where parents are already wanting to take their children out of classrooms and schools. One interesting point in all of this is that the test scores of teachers in charter schools have not been published. Hmmm.

The ratings of public school teachers were released on Friday and already, there is talk of releasing teacher ratings based on test scores throughout the state. Will charter schools be included in this McCarthy era witch hunt? Inquiring minds want to know.

Is this the sort of insanity that we want in Seattle or in our state?

There are a few articles that I would like to draw your attention to in terms of this ultimate form of teacher bashing. The first article is A principal at a high performing school explains why she is “absolutely sick” about the public release of the TDRs”. Here is an excerpt:

Having seen the TDRs when they first came out, I can say that they are extremely inaccurate, both in terms of actual mistakes and in how data is interpreted, particularly for teachers of high performing children.   Here is some more detail on that:

                1.       The amount of data that is simply wrong is staggering.  In my school alone, the first year of the TDRS, for just two grades (since of course that is all we have getting TDRs) 4-6 teachers have inaccurate data as follows:
·         One teacher who taught in 08-09 but was on child care leave for years before that time has data for a previous year-impossible…it must be data from someone who was in that same room the previous year.
·         For both of my upper grade CTT (inclusion) classes, the special education teacher has a data report that is for all 29 kids; the general education teachers in those classes have no TDRs. (This does appear to be corrected for 2010.)
And on the blog With a Brooklyn Accent, Shame of a Nation:
 This morning, when they return to work after vacation, teachers at more than twenty New York City public schools will face a gauntlet of reporters asking them about the Teacher Data Reports that were published during their winter vacation. Some will be singled out for personal humiliation, others will be asked to comment on their colleague’s abilities. What began as effort to quantify teacher performance has ended up as a spectacle of public humiliation of individual teachers unparalleled in the City’s history, the moral equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials or the purge of Hollywood Communists, with all the power and ruthlessness of commercial media unleashed. Some of the city’s best teachers – whom this ridiculous system assigned low scores-are going to be treated as though they were politicians caught frequenting Hookers or baseball stars caught using steroids, all in front of the children they teach.
Again, is this what we want for our teachers in Seattle or our state? Or for that matter, anywhere!? And don’t think for a minute that this couldn’t happen here. It occurred in Los Angles last year which was hailed as a real step forward in education reform by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama. It has now happened in New York City and will continue until enough parents, students, educators and concerned citizens stop this test crazed teacher evaluation insanity.
Call or write your legislators today and let them know what you think about this bill.