Missouri teachers to be evaluated on their students’ achievement


Grading teachers is a tricky assignment.

Studies show that teachers are the most important school-based factor in determining how much students learn, and that struggling students stand to benefit the most from highly effective instructors.

But getting teachers and administrators to agree on how to use standardized test scores to rate teacher effectiveness has proven difficult in states across the country.

Not so in Missouri.

After decades of using evaluations that most educators felt were inadequate, Missouri school districts are rolling out new evaluations this year intended to help make good teachers better while at the same time flagging the bad ones.

They will focus more on whether students are learning by incorporating standardized test scores and other measures into the review. They will use current and previous tests to determine growth — how much students learned under their teacher that year.

That’s been a lightning-rod issue elsewhere. But early signs here suggest that teachers for the most part are OK with Missouri’s approach.

In the Hazelwood School District, for example, of the 818 teachers who voted on the union’s contract with the district last spring, just 20 voted “no” and indicated it was because of the evaluation system. Student growth will make up 15 percent of a teacher’s evaluation in that district.

Teachers “are always learning, always growing, always changing, and that’s what this evaluation is based on,” said Diane Livingston, president of the Hazelwood teachers’ union.

President Barack Obama’s administration has offered incentives to states to develop more meaningful evaluation systems, ones that rate teachers and compensate them based on the standardized test scores of their students.

But such attempts have prompted educators to take to the streets in Chicago and hold opposition rallies in Baltimore and New Mexico. An outcry in New Jersey led education officials there to modify teacher evaluations to focus less on students’ academic growth.

In Illinois, districts have been phasing in new evaluations required by a four-year-old law, though districts aren’t obligated to make the move until 2016-17. At that point, at least 25 percent of a teacher’s rating must be based on multiple measures of student growth. Eventually, it will be 30 percent.

The biggest concern is the student growth piece, said Susan Sarfaty, superintendent of the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education.

“Teachers are used to being evaluated on their teacher practice. But the student growth is a whole new component and very murky,” Sarfaty said. “How a student does on a test is influenced by so many things.”

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Source: STL Today