State looks to revise data used in teacher evaluations

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, January 31, 2016 10:06pm
  • News

Student achievement may not be used to gauge the performance of their educators, at least for now.

The State Board of Education and Early Development is seeking to repeal Alaska’s requirements for the current school year that school districts incorporate a pupil’s data into teacher evaluations. The state’s 54 public school districts, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, were to have started using pilot programs by the 2015-2016 school year, and fully implemented the use of student data by the 2016-2017 school year.

“KPBSD believes that student learning data is one important piece of a teacher’s overall effectiveness,” said Christine Ermold, Director of Elementary Education and Professional Development. “However, the federal and state approach of legislating the type and number of assessments used for these purposes, and the inclusion of student learning data as a high stakes measure of teacher performance was an inappropriate use of data that does not appear to have a positive impact on student learning in states where those practices were in use for multiple years.”

The Board of Education approved the use of the Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, a certified teacher evaluation method, in Jan. 2014, Ermold said. It includes the use of student data in evaluations. So, regardless of what the state does, right now the school district is locked in to using the method at least for this year, she said.

The state board is able to propose the repeal because of a new federal law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the reauthorization of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 10, 2015, alleviates some pressure on school districts and states relating to standardized-testing regulations.

“So we put that into state regulations,” said Eric Fry, public information officer for the department of early education. “Now, the new federal education law no longer requires us to use student data in evaluations. So the state board will someday consider whether to keep it as a state requirement or drop it.”

If the state chooses not to use student data at all, then it would not be necessary to require school districts to use pilot programs this year, Fry said.

Additionally, “The State Board of Education is responding to concerns of the districts around the difficulty of conducting a pilot that includes all teachers and principals during this school year,” said Sondra Meredith, administrator of teacher education and certification for the state.

Full implementation of using student data is required by the 2016-2017 school year, Meredith said. So, this year was the last year a pilot would need to begin, she said.

The methods of data inclusion will be implemented through pilot programs, and include information from the Alaska Measures of Progress and Alaska Alternate assessments.

Each school district was required to come up with its own program, with some training offered by the state, Meredith said. Student population size and types of assessments being used would affect the models each school district uses, she said.

The school district began to use pilot methods in 2014, Ermold said.

“The methods vary by course and even by teacher, but all focus on trying to measure student learning over time on skills the teacher and their administrator deem highly important,” she said. “Not all measures are tests; many are performance tasks that are assessed against a rubric, while others may be based on tests that were already being used to monitor student progress.”

The results of teacher evaluations have no impact on what educators are paid in the school district, said Tim Vlasak, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Director of K-12 Schools, Assessment, and Federal Programs.

The school district will also provide input and work with the state to develop any future assessment requirements, as is required by the ESSA, he said.

“We believe in data driven decisions and that student data must be reviewed,” Vlasak said. “We will continue to require the reviewing of student data. We are in favor of districts being able to determine how that data is used in the evaluation process, if at all.”

The state board is seeking public comment concerning the repeal, which closes on Feb. 26.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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