Teaching Profession

Teacher-Evaluation Shifts: Georgia to Scale Back Testing Component

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 17, 2016 2 min read
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Georgia is poised to reduce the weight placed on student achievement growth in evaluating its teachers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

In the state, such measures count for 50 percent of each teacher’s evaluation. They’re based on state standardized tests for some teachers, and on local measures for all other teachers who don’t teach in subjects or grades assessed by the state. Under the bill, which has passed both the state House and Senate, tests would count for only 30 percent of each teacher’s annual review.

Instead, the leftover 20 percent would instead be based on whether teachers achieve what in the bill are rather vaguely called “professional growth goals.” As before, observations of teachers’ classroom practice would make up the other 50 percent.

Teachers and their unions have long complained about the weight placed on standardized tests in the state. And earlier this year, state Superintendent Richard Woods signaled his openness to re-examining the state system. But the changes appear to be at least partly fueled by the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which did away with the U.S. Department of Education’s “waiver” system, which required that states set up teacher-evaluation systems based “in signifcant part” on student achievement.

(To be fair, the feds never really defined what “in significant part” was supposed to mean in the first place. But many states are taking ESSA as a green light to scale back the use of standardized tests, or at least to use them in a less rigid way.)

Other states moving this direction? New York did a major whiplash in policy by freezing its test scores for four years. Oklahoma recently gave its districts much more flexibility on the type of student-growth measures it allowed. Virginia’s state Superintendent wants to reduce the emphasis on tests, as does South Carolina’s. And there are also proposals floating around in other states.

Interestingly, the Georgia bill also removes a reference to the use of student-perception data as part of the teacher-observation measure.

Colleague Catherine Gewertz walks you through the Georgia bill’s other major changes to the state’s testing regime, so make sure to check out her blog item, too.

Correction: This item originally misspelled Richard Woods’ name.

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