State to begin teacher evaluations

ATLANTA — For the first time ever, student test scores will soon factor into evaluations for teachers and principals across Georgia under a new statewide program.

The state will roll out a pilot of its new educator evaluation system in January, starting with the 26 school districts that signed on to Georgia’s application for the federal “Race to the Top” grant competition. The state won $400 million last year to launch a host of programs aimed at improving student achievement and turning around low-performing schools.

The new evaluation system includes a value-added score — which gauges educators’ value based on how much their students gained in one year. Though there’s not one uniform way to calculate value-added measurements, the basic concept is to show whether a teacher helped a student improve through test scores, attendance and other factors.

Teachers also will be judged on student surveys and two classroom observations by school administrators, with ratings of exemplary, proficient, developing/needs improvement or ineffective.

“Sometimes, you just need to call a spade a spade,” said Martha Ann Todd, director of teacher and leader effectiveness for the Georgia Department of Education. “It’s just a real clear message that this is not good enough.”

Principals will be judged based on their ability to retain effective teachers, their school’s student attendance and surveys filled out by the teachers in their schoolhouse, among other measurements.

For teachers in subjects where there is no standardized test — like chorus or chemistry — districts will have to come up with student learning targets for classes to meet rather than relying on test scores. About 75 percent of teachers are in non-tested subjects.

And eventually, the state plans to link the evaluations to merit bonuses for teachers and principals who do well.

Teacher evaluations are not new to Georgia — districts across the state have evaluated teachers and principals for years. But this is the first time the state has mandated that student test scores be part of that process, and it’s the first statewide system that eventually will be rolled out to all 180 districts.

Value-added measurements like the one Georgia plans to use have drawn attention nationally — and some criticism — after The Los Angeles Times printed the names and scores for every teacher in the Los Angeles school district in April. Critics say it’s difficult to track which teacher is responsible for a student’s academic progress because many students get tutoring or extra help from a variety of teachers.

And experts on value-added measurements say states must be careful not to make their calculations too simple because it could create inaccurate results. For example, a school can’t just take a student’s test score and subtract it from the previous year’s score to calculate how the teacher influenced them, said Bill Sanders, a retired University of Tennessee professor who helped develop a value-added measure for the North Carolina-based SAS Institute.

Instead, calculations must take into account how much a student was absent, whether the student transferred into the school mid-year or whether the class got a new teacher after Christmas break, he said.

“What people think is that every principal or teacher ought to be able to take a $2 calculator and scratch pad and go to the dining room table and calculate their own value-added measure. What you’ll get back is completely unreliable,” Sanders said. “I fear a backlash when that happens where all value-added processes get painted with the same brush.”

Teachers say they hope the state doesn’t rush through rolling out the evaluation system.

“To do evaluations well will require significant agreement on the instrument, significant training of those who will use it and significant amounts of time to actually accomplish it,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which represents more than 80,000 educators across the state. “Replacing our current drive-by evaluation system won’t be done easily, quickly or cheaply.”

The state’s pilot will include about 5,000 teachers and several hundred principals in the 26 districts — with up to 60 districts being added each year starting in fall 2012. The entire state will be under the evaluation system starting in fall 2014.

Georgia is not alone in its use of test scores to evaluate educators: 23 states use student achievement to judge teachers, according to a recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. That number has grown in the past couple of years as states passed new teacher evaluation laws to help them win part of the $4 billion set aside by the U.S. Department of Education for Race to the Top.

Even states that didn’t win the money — like Colorado and Washington — have moved forward with developing teacher evaluations. And states hoping to get waivers from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law must come up with teacher and principal evaluation systems.

“What the adults in school buildings are doing is more important relative to student academic progress than the mailing address of where the students come from,” Sanders said. “To ignore this basically says that we as a society are prepared to allow a lot of students to come nowhere close to fulfilling their full academic potential. This is why as a society we can no longer essentially ignore the fact that what happens in schools makes a huge difference.”


whattheheck 3 years, 5 months ago

Although there are teachers/principals who "ain't worth a damn", there are students who are not the slightest interested in learning--destined to be future gang members and inmates. Like pouring water on a rock. We need to identify the "disrupters" and get them out of the schools so those who are interested can learn without distraction. No matter how hard one tries, you can't polish a turd! Quit trying.


waltspecht 3 years, 5 months ago

Oh, if you dry it well and put a little canuba wax on it they will shine. Remember when you could buy the gift boxes of "Road Apples"? Dried and polished Horse Turds. Someone sold a bunch of them to some folks. Just like the Educators are trying to sell us graduates that can't read to level, write with any skill and do math at a third grade level. Let alone have enough practical skill to make change or read a ruler.


PatrickY2K 3 years, 5 months ago

When will test scores be linked to parent evaluations?


TheMember 3 years, 5 months ago

This is probably the best statement I have read so far. I, however think some of the teachers and administrators are out of touch, but the word "homework" does not have any meaning to most of the parents and students. The teachers are there to guide the students in the right direction, not to be a full time babysitter. I coached my sons baseball tball team and I could tell the players who went home and worked on their game with a sibling or parent.


chinaberry25 3 years, 5 months ago

Maybe this is the beginning of placing disrupters into an alternative school. There have no intention in ever learning, just there because Mama draws her welfare check. Have revalued at 18 and cut them off if they have not performed. If they have not done it by 18, why waste taxpayers money any longer. DOE needs to have money for a whole department to span the state looking at critical areas. ESP grades should be removed from the factor. If teachers are underperforming, then put them in the alternative school. They deserve each other.


Sally_O 3 years, 5 months ago

Just reserve a cell for them at the jailhouse. That is where they will end up anyway.


Cartman 3 years, 5 months ago

The state needs to begin Public Education Administrator evaluations.


waltspecht 3 years, 5 months ago

Take away their Gangsta role models. Show them what a life without an education really is. Don't keep allowing our courts and Politicians to coddle them. If you watch folks getting by in a style that suits you, why wouldn't you follow them? Yet if you really see these folks suffering, they won't be emulated. Half the shows on TV show the gangs as a great way of life. Lets force Society to take the prisons back and then the streets. Harsh treatment and swift justice is about all thats left.


Trustbuster 3 years, 5 months ago

Race to the Top is another version of NCLB. Unfortunately we are replacing one headache with another. I thought the previous election would have taught the Washington and Atlanta bureaucrats to stay out of local politics. Counties are loosing control of their local schools to unelected officials accountable to only career politicians. The best thing that Georgia could do is to return back before NCLB and the Race to the Top. No accountability has been built in for parents or the community. I am glad that I have only 7 years left in the classroom. The teaching profession has become a joke. The classroom is now under the control of bureaucrats and so called educational policy makers. Most of them got out of the classroom because they could not do their jobs!


Sign in to comment