School districts across Washington state are starting to evaluate teachers and principals in new, more rigorous ways. Not surprisingly, that’s not easy.
Rather than simply rating teachers and principals as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, districts are using a four-level scale and, for the first time, must include student academic growth as a significant part of those evaluations.
Just how to do that well? A panel last week at the University of Washington made it clear that question is far from settled.
There’s wide agreement that student learning should be part of teacher and principal evaluations, and that such growth can’t be measured by any one test. The question is: What should be part of the equation? Classroom assignments/tests? District ones? State exams given at the end of a school year? And how much weight should any of these receive?
Two of the four panelists — Chris Korsmo of the League of Education Voters and Justin Fox-Bailey, a Snohomish teacher and executive committee member at the state’s largest teachers union — covered all the usual arguments about whether state test scores should play a role in measuring student growth.
Korsmo argued that state test scores, while imperfect measures of teacher quality, have value and their use can be refined over time. Fox-Bailey questioned whether they are valid and reliable enough to be used at all.
Joe Willhoft offered a peek into the future, when tests will be more sophisticated, but he also said he thought using a mix of measures would be prudent. (He is the executive director of a consortium of states that are developing tests tied to the Common Core, a new set of learning standards that Washington and most other states are starting to use.)
But it was Michaela Miller, who formerly worked on teacher evaluation at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, who brought up one of the often-overlooked concerns when it comes to state tests — that the vast majority of Washington teachers don’t teach grades or subjects that are covered by them.
Want to guess how many do? 50 percent? 30? Still too high.
According to Miller, it’s only about 16 percent.