Editorial: Develop comprehensive teacher evaluation system

Lawmakers rightly eliminate mandate for standardized tests to be used in evaluations
Techler Elementary teacher Heather Mello teaches a 4th grade class math on Tuesday September 26, 2017.
Techler Elementary teacher Heather Mello teaches a 4th grade class math on Tuesday September 26, 2017.

Who knows better how effective teachers are at reaching their students and how best to measure that than the local district supervisors who interact with their teachers and students every day? No one.

The state Legislature finally arrived at the same answer by voting to eliminate a simplistic tool required by the state to evaluate teacher performance.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill passed by the Legislature earlier this week —  and he should — the state Education Department will no longer require that school districts use student results on standardized math and English tests in annual teacher performance evaluations.

Under the legislation (A0783/S1262), the state not only will eliminate the requirement that districts use the test results in evaluations, but it will allow districts to negotiate teacher evaluation programs in contract talks and remove any punishments districts could face for not having a plan in place, as long as they’re in the process of negotiating a new bargaining agreement.

The justification for the requirement was sound. Many ineffective teachers were being allowed to teach in New York classrooms, thereby depriving our students of a quality education and wasting taxpayer money. If we could find a way to efficiently evaluate performance, we could weed out these bad teachers and replace them with better ones.

As well, the reasoning behind using the tests seemed sound: Teachers are supposed to teach kids. The state created tests to measure what kids should know. If the kids don’t do well on the tests, it must mean that the teachers aren’t teaching the kids well. And that should be reflected in whether they continue to be allowed to teach.

But evaluating student performance, and by extension teacher performance, is a far more complex endeavor than simply using the results of a single test to determine successful teaching.

Many factors need to be considered than simply memorization for a test. 

They include the body of student work, development of more complex learning skills, creating enthusiasm for learning and other factors.

These simply can’t be measured accurately by a single standardized test. 

All of these factors roll into why standardized tests, by themselves anyway, should not be used as a major, mandated component in teacher evaluations.

Instead, districts should employ student portfolios, observation of teaching methods, teacher effectiveness in getting kids to learn, and performance on tests into annual evaluations.

Certainly, the state needs some kind of standard for evaluating teachers. But standardized test results was not it.

The governor should sign this bill.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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