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Two Senate bills side with teachers: Student growth on tests should not count for half their rating

Two bills in the state Senate seek to reduce the influence of student test scores on teacher evaluations. The law now calls for student growth -- as measured by testing -- to count for half of a teacher's annual rating.

Senate Bill 364 comes today from Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee. The bill would reduce the weight of student growth scores to 30 percent, which aligns with most other states.

A day earlier, Sen. William T. Ligon, R-Brunswick, introduced a bill that goes even further; Senate Bill 355 reduces the weight of the test scores to 10 percent.

According to the AJC's Ty Tagami:

Tippins’ bill would reduce the weight of tests in teacher evaluations to 30 percent or less in school districts that enter a “flexibility” contract with the state, meaning districts that opt to become either charter districts or system waiver districts. The other bill — William T. Ligon, Jr., R-Brunswick is the chief co-sponsor — goes further, limiting tests to a maximum 10 percent of evaluations.

The current mandate for evaluations, adopted by the General Assembly in 2013, requires student “growth” on tests to count for at least half of each teacher’s evaluation.

The Tippins bill is not yet up on the AJC Legislative Navigator or the General Assembly site. It will be posted tomorrow. Here is an excerpt from the Ligon legislation:

(1) Due to the unscientific and unreliable methods of measuring student growth, the percentage amount of any teacher's evaluation dependent on student test performance should be drastically reduced;

(2) The recent federal study by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, which is part of the Institute of Education Sciences of the United States Department of Education, reveals that the value added models are not capable of  measuring a teacher's effect on student learning in just one year;

(3) Even over three years, these measures of effectiveness still do not meet the .85 level of reliability traditionally desired in scores used for high-stakes decisions (Haertel, 2013; Wasserman & Bracken, 2003); and (4) The study strongly cautions states that are considering the student growth percentile model for teacher accountability about using the scores for high-stakes decisions.

Here is a response from DOE today on the Tippins bill:

State School Superintendent Richard Woods today released the following statements regarding SB 364, which would decrease the number of tests students have to take, as well as lower the weight of test results on the state’s teacher and leader evaluation system.

SB 364 would:

  • Reduce the number of state tests from 32 to 24
  • Reduce the weight of student test scores on the teacher evaluation system from 50% to 30%, with the remaining percentage coming from professional growth plans

On the reduction of state-mandated tests:

“I wholeheartedly support Senator Lindsey Tippins’ bill, SB 364, because it reflects many of the issues I’ve felt all along are burdensome to student learning and the recruitment and retention of our best teachers. The federal government requires 11 tests; Georgia requires almost three times that. Realignment is needed, and SB 364 would do just that, reducing the number of state-mandated tests students must take. By streamlining testing requirements, we can free up schools to focus on literacy and numeracy in the early grades, giving students a better foundation for success.”

On lowering the weight of test scores in the teacher and leader evaluation systems and adding a true professional growth component to the teacher and leader evaluation systems:

“I also am in full support of SB 364 because it reduces the percentage that student test scores count for teachers’ and leaders’ evaluations. Not only are Georgia students suffering from over-testing, Georgia teachers are, too. We need to loosen the weight of test scores for teacher evaluation and fill the gap with a professional growth component, which is just what SB 364 proposes. This would allow the evaluation system to become more of a coaching tool instead of a ‘gotcha’ tool. We conducted a survey of more than 53,000 Georgia teachers, and an overwhelming percentage selected ‘number of state-mandated tests’ and the ‘method for evaluating teachers’ as the main reasons why 44 percent of newly hired teachers leave the profession within five years. SB 364 will provide a better tool for teachers and also help recruit and retain the best teachers.”

On requiring students to be in class more to count toward a teacher’s performance:

Another issue SB 364 addresses has to do with the percentage of days students have to be present in class to be counted toward a teacher’s performance. Currently, students have to be in class only 65% of the time in order to count toward a teacher’s performance.

“The current 65% is far too low, and the SB 364 legislation to raise that to 80% is much more reasonable. Teachers should not be responsible for students who are not in class.”

On allowing all districts to implement tiered observations:

“We know a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for our students, and it doesn’t work for our teachers, either. I appreciate that SB 364 allows for tiered observations for our best teachers, which will free up administrators to spend more time with new or weaker teachers while giving teachers who receive high evaluation scores the benefit of fewer observations and more flexibility in the classroom.”

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