Friday, November 6, 2015


The vast majority of states now require that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on student test scores - up sharply from six years ago. And in many states, those performance reviews could lead to a pink slip.
The comprehensive state-by-state analysis released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows 42 states and the District of Columbia have policies on the books requiring that student growth and achievement be considered in evaluations for public school teachers. In 2009, only 15 states linked scores to teacher reviews.

In 28 states, teachers with "ineffective ratings are eligible for dismissal," said the report by the Washington-based think tank.

A majority of states adopted performance-based teacher evaluations as part of the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative, which has awarded $4 billion in grant money to states that promised reforms such as linking test scores to teacher reviews and adopting higher academic standards such as Common Core.

Other states have been pushed to adopt reforms in exchange for administration waivers giving states a pass on some of the requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law. More than 40 states have received waivers since 2012.

"The bottom line of teaching is whether or not students are learning," said Sandi Jacobs, the council's senior vice president of state and district policy. "If you stand up in front of a classroom every day and deliver great lesson after great lesson but no one in the class is gaining anything, then something is off."
For 16 states, including Colorado and Connecticut, student growth is the key factor in teacher evaluations.

In Washington D.C., several hundred teachers have been fired since 2009 over poor performance reviews. Test scores made up 35 percent of evaluations for those teaching students in tested grades and subjects. But last year, the D.C. public school system suspended the practice of linking test scores to teacher evaluations while students adjust to new tests based on Common Core standards. The moratorium will be lifted next school year, according to the press secretary for schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
The council's Jacobs says no state considers student achievement as the sole criteria for judging teachers. Other measures, such as classroom observations and student surveys, are considered.

The emphasis on test scores has long been a contentious issue with teachers' unions and even parents who worry about over-testing.

"Student outcomes should be determined in a far more robust way than mainly using test scores, such as through student grades, projects, other student work and regular observations," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said Wednesday. "Rather than test-and-punish systems, we need teacher evaluations that will help support and improve teaching and learning."
Parents, too, have registered concern.

A recent Gallup Poll found 55 percent of those questioned opposed linking teacher evaluations to their students' test scores. Among those with children in public schools opposition was stronger, at 63 percent.
States bucking the national trend on linking student performance to teacher reviews were California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont. The report said those states have no formal state policy requiring teacher evaluations consider student achievement.

Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas have policies that exist on paper, in the form of waivers granted by the Education Department. But Jacobs says the council's research turned up little evidence those states are linking teacher ratings to student achievement.

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, says most states recognize that how students are doing in the classroom is a critical part of the teacher's role.

"There were many factors that led to this shift - federal policy, state policy, however, the most basic reason for this shift was to make sure students are at the center of these conversations with teachers," said Minnich.

According to the report, principals also are getting grades on student performance. The report said 18 states and Washington, D.C. use student growth as the key measure of how well their school chiefs are doing.

In three states, Georgia, New Jersey and Ohio, the weight of student growth in principal evaluations is usually larger than in teacher evaluations, said the report. In New Jersey, for example, the weight of student growth counts for 50 percent of principal ratings. For teachers, the range is 30-50 percent.

N.J. releases PARCC scores needed for graduation

About half of the New Jersey students who took the state's annual algebra II and geometry exams last year did not score high enough to use their scores toward state graduation requirements, according to state data.
The state Department of Education on Wednesday released its updated graduation requirements for the New Jersey classes of 2016-2019, revealing the scores students will need on the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams.
While the majority of high school juniors scored high enough in English, only 53 percent of students from all grade levels met the target score in algebra II and 44 percent in geometry.
To use PARCC to meet graduation requirements, students will need to hit a target score on only one PARCC English and math test administered to high school students, regardless of what year they take the exam. So a student who does not meet the benchmark on the algebra II test could earn a high enough score the following year on the geometry exam.
In math, students can fulfill graduation requirements with a 750 or better on the algebra I exam or a 725 or higher on either the Algebra II or geometry exams.
For English, the state will accept a score of 750 or above on the ninth or tenth grade test and a score of 725 or better on the 11th grade exam.
A 750 is the equivalent of scoring four on PARCC's five-point scoring scale, the threshold for meeting grade-level expectations. A 725 is the same as scoring a three, a classification for students who are considering to be approaching grade-level expectations.
New Jersey will allow students to meet graduation requirements with scores that are below grade-level expectations on the higher-level tests because it's former high school exit exam was based primarily on what students learned in eighth or ninth grade, said Bari Erlichson, assistant state education commissioner.
The English test for 11th grade and math exams for algebra II and geometry are much more difficult than the test New Jersey used in past years, she said.
"In this transition, we are really working hard to not raise expectations for the diploma higher than where they have been," Erlichson said.
Prior to the introduction of PARCC, New Jersey used an exam called the High School Proficiency Assesment (HSPA) as a graduation requirement, and all students took the test in eleventh grade.
Students who couldn't pass HSPA would take an alternative test or demonstrate their abilities through a portfolio appeal process, Erlichson said.
For the next four years, students can meet graduation requirements through PARCC or a variety of other tests, including the SAT and ACT, as well as the portfolio process.
New Jersey has not yet determined graduation requirements for the Class of 2020.
School districts will receive students' PARCC scores later this month and mail the results to students, according to the state.