Debate on Teacher Evaluation and Performance Continues

An October 1 article chronicles the ongoing debate over evaluating teachers based on student performance as Maryland continues to implement education changes in order to qualify for federal Race to the Top funding.

To show student improvement or decline on tests, schools can use a simple growth model. The most comprehensive form of growth models, called value-added assessments and developed by psychometricians, track student progress on tests over time, but they also predict how individual students will perform on a test, controlling for various factors such as socioeconomic background. Teachers are then measured against those predictions to isolate their impact on student performance. …

Prince George’s County Public Schools created a program last year that paid $1.1 million in bonuses to 279 teachers who volunteered for performance-based pay. Only 21 teachers who volunteered failed to meet requirements for the bonuses (the teachers who didn’t qualify for bonuses were not disciplined, because the pilot program was voluntary). …

But the media’s focus on how individual schools fare on certain tests often ignores other important factors inside schools, said Clara Floyd, president of the Maryland State Education Association. Floyd also noted that she isn’t opposed in principle to using the growth models as one of many measures of teacher performance. …

Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. (D-Dist.6) of Dundalk, a resource teacher in Baltimore County Public Schools, said there’s a danger in drawing straightforward conclusions from test scores.

He used as an example people assuming a high school teacher who brought students’ reading from a third-grade level to a sixth-grade reading level is a failure because students still will be below grade level at the end of the year. School-to-school or class-to-class comparisons of growth model results should be avoided, he said.

“Teachers aren’t afraid of evaluations,” Olszewski said. “I think that all they’re looking for is for it to be fair.”

As previously reported by Conduit Street, the Baltimore City school system and its teacher unions have reached a tentative agreement to implement a performance-based salary system for City teachers.  The details of the agreement still need to be finalized.

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