Last week I attended a function at the University of Puget Sound where Bellevue Elementary Teacher Linda Myrick made an excellent point. She noted that some (certainly not all) of her students who fare well on tests have told her that they think some of their performance can be attributed to the extra tutoring their parents paid for them to attend over the weekend.
Superintendent Banda sent a letter to the Legislature last week, urging them to pass the teacher evaluation bill that would require test scores to be used for teacher evaluations. (Currently, they can be but don't have to be used.) What makes this also important is that the Seattle teacher evaluation in the CBA already mandates using the data but the rest of the state in their local CBAs do not. The feds want everybody in the pool.
At times Banda uses the word "lost" versus "redirected" about the money that would be available under the waiver. What I was told by the WEA is that even if the waiver didn't come thru, that the district would set aside dollars for these purposes. They said that last year both Seattle and Tacoma didn't even use half their money. And, that any money not used (if the districts set it aside) would just roll back into the general fund.
There are several superintendents - in Shoreline, Snohomish and Stanwood-Camano - who are against the change.
William Mester, the Snohomish superintendent, for example, wrote to state superintendent Randy Dorn and OSPI in February:
"These new tests assess only a narrow slice of what is taught in any given year and are limited according to OSPI’s own analysis to the professional context of no more than 16 percent of all educators. The results of these tests are not timely for instruction and can not be used to attribute any performance to any particular educator. While these tests may provide feedback on a narrow aspect of what a student might have learned, they can not determine why a particular student did or did not learn or who is responsible what did or did not happen. These tests can not be used to help educators grow or improve as they provide absolutely no feedback about the specific attributes of classroom practice."
That last sentence begs the question of what ARE assessment for - just to judge a teacher or help inform teaching and learning?
Publicola is reporting that the SEA sent an email to legislators.
And the SEA contract, as opposed to many district contracts, already requires statewide student test scores be part of teacher evaluations. This makes Knapp's argument more powerful. He writes:
Most of our Distinguished teachers were eager to see their superior practice confirmed by the data. That DID NOT happen. Teachers believe that student growth data is hugely important for helping teachers understand student growth, but the correlation to great teaching is now seen to be so weak that the idea of student test scores as a required student growth measure is bringing teachers into open revolt.
Knapp goes on to note that that feds already knew what Washington state's teacher evaluations looked like when they agreed to go ahead with Race to the Top grants. Pointing out the lapse in federal logic, he writes: "The Department of Education knew what the teacher evaluation system was in Washington state when it approved the grant. It cannot be good enough for approval of the grant, but not good enough to keep the grant."
Knapp concludes by saying that any change to the teacher evaluation system is a district by district collective bargaining issue not a matter for legislators.
The legislative session ends on Thursday the 13th.