Teacher evaluation change delayed

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Teacher evaluation change delayed
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail
The West Virginia Board of Education has again delayed increasing the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluations.

Fifteen percent of annual evaluations for math and English/language arts teachers this school year were to be based off their students’ improvement in exam scores over last school year — when those students were perhaps taught by different teachers — but the state school board voted 6-0 Thursday to delay the requirement until at least next school year. Board members Tom Campbell, Wade Linger and Gayle Manchin were absent.

The state school board also voted last year to delay the requirement. On the state’s new Common Core-aligned standardized test for math and English/language arts that was given to grades 3-11 in the spring, a majority of students scored at least “proficient” in just one grade and just one subject: fifth, where students achieved a 51 percent proficiency rate in English/language arts.

Michele Blatt, the state Department of Education’s chief accountability and performance officer, said the math and English/language arts teachers will continue to — just as they and other teachers have been graded in the past — have that 15 percent based off student improvement in two “student learning goals” that they get to choose. For example, she said a reading teacher’s goal could be getting most students to understand context clues.

As in years past, 5 percent of teacher evaluations will continue to be based on school-wide student improvement in test scores. Blatt said the remaining 80 percent will continue to be based on observations from principals and assistant principals plus data teachers provide to support what ratings they should receive. Bad evaluations can eventually lead to firings, but she said teachers usually get about 27 weeks of help in fixing identified issues before dismissal.

She told board members Thursday that a “large majority” of public comments about the issue argued it was unfair to hold math and English/language arts teachers accountable for standardized test scores when other teachers aren’t. State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said he doesn’t support the “separate systems” for evaluating teachers, saying the discrepancy could cause grievances and other issues.

Board member Lloyd Jackson said he wanted to move forward with basing the 15 percent off standardized tests, but said the implementation is complicated and personal because it deals with individual teachers.

“I think there’s a lot of reasons we need to take one more year to get this right,” he said.

Blatt said the change was in response to Congress’ ongoing attempt to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — the central K-12 federal education legislation also known as No Child Left Behind, which requires part of math and English/language arts teacher evaluations to be based on standardized exams — and unexpected difficulties in matching up teachers with the students whose scores they’d be considered accountable for.

She said the teacher-student matching process, called roster verification, was meant to remove teachers’ accountability for students who, for instance, missed half the school year, instead of just making them responsible for the students simply listed in their classes. She said the state education department will save $240,000 this school year by not having to fund support for teacher rostering — a “bonus” to Thursday’s vote, considering Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s announcement of mid-fiscal-year cuts to state agencies.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have each passed rewrites of No Child Left Behind, and are currently working on a compromise between their two versions, but Blatt said neither iteration requires testing be part of teacher evaluations.

“With all the other change that’s going on out there, if we can keep something the same, that’s what we need to do for teachers and for schools,” Blatt said. “And not change this year, and then because of federal or state legislation have to turn around and change next year.”