Ed. Dept. Official Says Teacher Evaluations Shouldn’t Rest on Test Scores Alone

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 14, 2009 1 min read
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Vis-a-vis this recent blog item, Education Department official Judy Wurtzel apparently won plaudits today from educators for reiterating that teacher evaluations should be based on several different measures of performance, not on test scores alone. (She was speaking at the Association for Curriculum Supervision and Development’s legislative conference, which I’ve been following at Twitter.)

Wurtzel, the deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at ED, added, however, that such data should not be excluded from the evaluation process.

Now that that’s cleared up, the question becomes to what extent test scores (or other indicators of student growth) should be weighted in making determinations of teacher effectiveness. I went back through the draft Race to the Top guidelines to find out, and unfortunately the language here is fairly vague. Student-growth data should be “a significant factor” in such decisions, the proposed criteria state.

Now just what does that mean? Some teachers and administrators, no doubt, would think that basing 10 percent of an evaluation test scores would be significant. But that’s a far cry away from specifying that the student data should make up the majority of the data sources weighed in an evaluation or be made the preponderant criterion. (Those terms leave no doubt that such data would make up at least 50 percent of the rating.)

Does ED want to leave this decision up to states and districts to determine? That’s a possibility, but seems a bit odd given that the RTTT application is so detailed in all other respects.

If you support the use of these measures, how much weight do you think they should be given?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.