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Guidelines for teacher evaluation worsen the obsession with and misuse of standardized testing

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May 5, 2014 | 3,786 views | Post a comment

Linda Bridges, president of the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), commented today on the Texas Education Agency’s guidelines for teacher evaluations submitted to the U.S. Department of Education:

The commissioner is relying on a defective value-added model to measure teacher performance based on standardized test scores, and the state will face the same problems that we’ve seen in Houston ISD, which now is the target of a lawsuit against its faulty evaluation system. It is very troubling that the commissioner is depending on SAS Institute--the same company that developed the dubious evaluation system targeted by the lawsuit in Houston--to develop its value-added formulas.

Parents, teachers and students across Texas are rebelling against overtesting and the damage it’s done to our schoolchildren, yet the state’s top education official is pushing to increase the emphasis on standardized tests even further. Many teachers already are fed up with the standardized-testing obsession that hinders real teaching and learning, and now this model proposes to tell them that their professional abilities can be judged by vague statistical formulas based on their students’ test scores.

The commissioner’s game plan to increase the misuse of test scores and rely on black-box formulas for evaluations should add fuel to the revolt among parents, students and teachers against this destructive course for Texas education.

The key Education Code provisions on teacher evaluation do not authorize the commissioner to dictate to school districts that scores of an individual teacher’s students on state assessments will be a significant factor in the evaluation of that teacher. Yet the commissioner apparently aims to circumvent state law, demand that school districts show "fidelity" to his appraisal scheme and forge ahead with this flawed model under the guise of compliance with bureaucratic edicts from his counterparts in the federal government.

Texas AFT takes a back seat to nobody in supporting proven models of evaluation that gauge a teacher’s performance with multiple measures that more accurately reflect the teacher’s ability to inspire learning in students and ensure they are both learning the curriculum and learning how to think critically and creatively. As professionals, we understand the importance of fair and supportive evaluations, and we’ll continue to fight for a system that achieves that goal.

Texas AFT represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.5-million-member American Federation of Teachers.
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