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Teacher: Student test scores should influence evaluations, along with classroom observations

Not all Georgia teachers object to student test scores influencing their annual ratings.

Here is one of those teachers. Kirk Shook has been a social studies teacher in Oconee County for nine years. He has served at the Georgia Department of Education on the Social Studies Resource Committee and the Georgia Performance Standards Revision Team for Economics. He is a Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year finalist for 2016.

This issue will be the focus of a hearing this afternoon by the House Education Committee, which is considering legislation changing how teacher are evaluated, including reducing the weight of student test scores.

The AJC is reporting this morning that Gov. Nathan Deal wants to  suppress any legislative overhaul of student testing and teacher evaluations. According to the AJC:

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators emailed an alert to its members early Tuesday, warning that Deal was calling members of the House Education committee about Senate Bill 364.

The governor “pressed them to hold SB 364 and to raise the emphasis of standardized testing in educator evaluation,” the email from PAGE, which has nearly 100,000 members, said. It said the governor “apparently” threatened to veto the bill.

With that background, here is the teacher essay.

By Kirk Shook

As a classroom teacher who works in a school system that was an early adopter of Georgia’s current teacher evaluation system, I have experienced firsthand how receiving quality feedback benefits both my students and me.

While the original evaluation system (CLASS Keys) that was rolled out in the days of state Superintendent Kathy Cox was quite onerous, the new evaluation tool used today is not near the burden — essentially, good teachers meet the criteria without having to “jump through hoops.” I just teach well and my administrators reflect that in the current evaluation tool.

My job is to make sure students in my classroom are learning. At the end of each year, they hopefully have learned the subject matter at hand and have also advanced their thinking and processing skills so that they can master what lies ahead.

While none of us enjoys the standardized tests that have been designed to measure student progress, it is hard to argue they do not provide an objective assessment as to where each student lies on the education continuum. And it is also hard to argue that teachers like me do not play a role in that outcome.

Like it or not, the growth of our students is part of our responsibility as teachers, which is why I have come to truly appreciate the feedback we receive through observation. Understanding my strengths and weaknesses has helped me become a more effective teacher -- in my mind, being “satisfactory” is not good enough and that simple ranking even closes the door to discussing areas of improvement.

The new tiers in the current evaluation system help to provide greater feedback and provide a better opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with my principal on what goes on in my classroom. For me, it is an opportunity to show my administrators how much learning is going on in my classes and give them a better glimpse at student achievement beyond test scores.

I understand that not all teachers share my opinion, but I thought it was important to add a different perspective to this important conversation. Being a teacher is not an easy job, and I agree wholeheartedly that evaluations should be constructive, rather than punitive, which is what I believe we have in place today.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.