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Topic: Teacher evaluations stall Iowa education reform
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,803
Registered: 12/3/04
Teacher evaluations stall Iowa education reform
Posted: Apr 29, 2013 8:22 PM
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From The Quad-City Times, Saturday, April 27,
2013. See
http://qctimes.com/news/local/education/teacher-evaluations-stall-iowa-education-reform/article_cb338924-9bff-5bab-bfc0-d9f368735836.html
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Teacher evaluations stall Iowa education reform

By Mike Wiser

DES MOINES - Education reform is at a standstill
in the Statehouse with the politically rocky
issue of teacher evaluations one of the main
stumbling blocks.

Specifically, Gov. Terry Branstad's education
reform proposal, which was picked almost whole
hog by the Republican-controlled House, calls for
reviews of teachers that include a way to tie
student test scores to teacher pay and promotions.

Republicans say they won't approve any
legislation that doesn't have what they're
calling teacher accountability measures.
Democrats say schools need time to digest the
changes made last year before embarking on new
evaluation programs that aren't perfected yet.

It's an argument that has played itself out over
and over again across the country as the tools
for tracking test scores and measuring teacher
effectiveness have become increasingly
sophisticated.

"Why wouldn't you?" asked Tom Narak, lobbyist for
the School Administrators of Iowa, who was
sitting with Carlisle Community School
Superintendent Tom Lane at a Capitol lunch table
last week. "It's the way (evaluations) going now."

Value-added

One of the most controversial ways to tie student
performance to teacher evaluations is using
what's called value-added models. That's a system
that attempts to measure a teacher's
effectiveness in any given year by tracking the
test scores of his or her students.

In an ideal system, teacher effectiveness based
on student scores across a school would look like
a bell curve, with 20 percent or so being highly
effective, 65 percent being effective and a tail
end of 15 percent of the teachers being deemed
not as effective. That bell curve could then be
used to help administrators evaluate their
teaching corps.

According to the National Council on Teacher
Quality, 11 states, including Iowa's neighbors
Illinois and Minnesota, require student
achievement to be the dominant factor in teacher
evaluations. In Iowa, individual districts
determine the criteria by which teachers are
evaluated.

Scott McLeod, an associate professor of
educational leadership at the University of
Kentucky and author of the education blog
"Dangerously Irrelevant," is not impressed with
current value-added modeling.

"They can't seem to come up with statistical
systems that are workable and fair," McLeod said.

He cites several studies that show a portion of
teachers who were ranked highly effective in one
year end up being ranked in the lowest range the
next.

"So you have 30-40 percent completely changing
where they land," he said. "It's an issue of
fairness because you have high-stakes decisions
attached to these results. Professional
reputations are at stake, salary considerations
are at stake Š can you imagine being in a job
where you have such a volatile scale which is
subject to a 30 percent change randomly?"

Department of Education director Jason Glass, who
gave the state Board of Education its first
introduction to value-added measures in 2011,
said he understands why some people are skeptical.

"That's why the governor's proposal makes this a
three-year process," Glass said.

In the Republican-supported language, a task
force would be appointed to work out a
student-achievement evaluation that would likely
have value-added testing as part of it in the
first year. The model would be tested in select
districts the second year, and the third year
would be used for refinements before it is
expanded statewide.

Glass has his own set of studies he points to
that show how value-added measures help districts
identify low-performing teachers so they can get
extra help or, perhaps, move on to different
careers. It also helps districts identify
high-performing teachers whom districts can
reward in an effort to keep them in the classroom.

"This is going to be an inclusive process," he said. "It needs to be."

Unfinished

Also skeptical is Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames,
co-chairman of the 10-lawmaker conference
committee charged with finding a compromise bill
on education reform.

The committee did not meet at all last week, and
no meeting has been set yet for the coming week.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Friday.

"We haven't fully implemented the Iowa Core,
which is also the Common Core. We don't have our
(student) tests aligned to that, there are at
least three testing systems out there, and none
of them are finished," Quirmbach said. "Those are
the standards we're supposed to test students on,
and they're not done yet. You're telling me that
we should tie teacher evaluations to an
incomplete system? I don't think so."

But Rep. Ron Jorgensen of Sioux City, who serves
as Republican co-chairman of the conference
committee, is just as adamant.

"Look, if we're going to spend this kind of money
- $144 million more on education - teacher
accountability has to be part of it, or it's not
reform," he said. "And that's something we just
can't accept."

****************************************
--
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu



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