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Teaching Profession

Some Race to Top States Tinker With Teacher Evaluations

By Lauren Camera — July 17, 2014 2 min read
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New Jersey recently became the sixth state with a Race to the Top grant (albeit a smaller, “bridesmaid"-sized grant) to alter or put the brakes on new teacher evaluations, a major policy shift required of the competition’s winners.

On Tuesday, the state department of education watered-down the use of scores from new Common Core State Standards-aligned exams in its teacher evaluations. With Gov. Chris Christie’s backing, the state lessened the weight given to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, for the next two years. (You can read more about the details on the department’s website.)

The announcement comes on the heels of several other states tweaking their implementation of teacher-evaluation policies adopted as part of the promises made under their Race to the Top applications. It also comes just a month after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined the two largest teachers’ unions in calling for a temporary halt to evaluating teachers based on common core tests.

States tinkering with major parts of their Race to the Top committments is a trend worth watching, and plays into a larger question that my partner-in-crime, Alyson Klein, explored in her blog about the amount of leverage U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan still has over Race to the Top winners.

In the month of June alone we saw three states alter their evaluations.

New York state lawmakers approved legislation sponsored by Gov. Andrew Cuomo changing the impact that assessments aligned to the common-core standards would have on teachers and principals rated “ineffective” or “developing” for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

Education officials in the nations’ capital announced they won’t use a newly crafted “value added” test-score-based algorithm for measuring teacher effectiveness for the 2014-15 school year in order to ensure a smooth transition to the common-core-aligned tests.

Additionally, the Buckeye State decided to give districts the option of reducing the weight that PARCC tests will have in teacher evaluations. Ohio had planned to require that half of evaluations be based on student-test performance, but for the 2014-15 school year the state decided that districts could reduce the weight of those test scores to 42.5 percent.

In May, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed a bill into law that allows districts, for the 2014-15 school year, to decide for themselves how much student academic growth will count in their teacher evaluations, if at all.

In April, Tennessee, which was set to use the PARCC assessments in the upcoming 2014-15 school year, delayed that plan for one year and legislators voted to re-open the bidding process for new assessments entirely. The state assessments are used as one of several variables in teacher evaluations.

Finally, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, announced he’s planning to drop the common-core standards and aligned PARCC assessments entirely—though it’s proved so far to gin up nothing but political controversy. Education chief John White and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are preparing for a possible lawsuit against Jindal should he try to follow through with his threats.