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Hear the Echoes #21 - Friday, June 24, 2011

Hear the Echoes No. 21



Educator Evaluation

Lessons to be Learned



          Tennessee has been a pioneer in using the value added growth model in its accountability system.  It was the first in the nation to adopt the Sanders model that tried to determine how much students grew both within the year and over years.


          The State Department created an Advisory Committee on Educator Evaluation.  It is composed mostly of teachers, principals and local superintendents, and LSBA has two members taking part in the difficult task of determining how to implement the legislative mandate to evaluate teachers using a value added growth model.


          Dr. Sara Heyburn serves as K-12 policy advisor to the Governor’s Office in Tennessee.  That state’s law requires that 35% of the criteria for teacher evaluation be based upon student growth.  While the pioneering growth model has been used for over 10 years in Tennessee, Dr. Heyburn reported that using the model to evaluate teacher performance is a work in progress.


          A vexing problem, shared by Louisiana, can be found in the testing regime that


 does not cover subjects taught by all teachers.  Career-technical curricula, art, music, physical education, and pre-K through third grades pose truly difficult doubts about the developing system.


          Both Tennessee and the Louisiana DOE are searching for ways to meet legal requirements without instituting even more testing to distract from student learning time.  High quality instruments that are valid in their use for evaluating non-tested teacher performance, that are proven reliable, can be understood by educators, students and all other education stakeholders are still being tested.  Complicating the issue is that such evaluation instruments have to be practical and fiscally responsible.


          Louisiana now spends some $48 million a year on student and school accountability, and the prospect of investing still more in teacher evaluation tools will be a daunting experience.


          Dr. Latanya Walker, director of Louisiana’s non-test grade project, outlined one approach to resolving the issue of how to evaluate teachers of courses that are not tested.  She’s dubbed the "Bucket System>.”  While certainly not clearly understood the system is a way to start; it’s a matter of moving toward the goal; a means and not an end. 


          Dr. Walker suggested that bucketing will encourage needed discussion on specific topics, and that the buckets are not mutually exclusive. 


          Relating untested content teacher performance to those teachers whose students are tested is likely a task that stirs debate for some time to come.  Since the evaluation system that has been mandated by the Louisiana Legislature insists on all teachers being evaluated annually starting in the 2011-2012 school year, the committee faces a daunting challenge.


Tennessee has created a technical advisory team for nontested course teachers and provides them with a framework by which to evaluate test instruments.  The team must then determine if a composite score is appropriate to meet the measure of growth requirement.


The Tennessee plan is to thoroughly pilot all new recommendations prior to implementation.  The teams recognize that there is no one size fits all for teachers of non-tested courses or grades. 


Superintendent Wayne Savoy suggest that a widespread problem will become evident in that many special education teachers do not teach full time and teach to individualized lesson plans designed to meet the special needs of each individual.


Dr. Heyburn acknowledged that is a significant problem to be overcome.


The goal of the committee is to get 70% of teachers covered in the first year. Gaynell Young, school board member from the Zachary school board and one of two LSBA representatives on the committee observed the importance of keeping Louisiana school boards informed as evaluation policy changes.


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