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Report: CA 1 of 5 states without linking teacher reviews to learning

Craig Clough | November 5, 2015

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Source: NCTQ

A report out this week from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) found that California is just one of five states that has no formal policy requiring that teacher evaluations be tied in some way to student achievement measures.

The report — State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning  — took a look at the policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“While the last five plus years have seen most states make significant changes to their teacher evaluation policies, California has not been part of the national movement to connect teacher evaluation to classroom effectiveness,” Sandi Jacobs, senior vice president for state and district policy for NCTQ, said in an email to LA School Report.

“California still does not require annual evaluations for all teachers, and while there is some vague language in state code about using student achievement as part of teacher evaluations ‘as applicable,’ this language is far from the clear mandate now seen in the overwhelming majority of states and is clearly not the practice in districts across the state.”

Tying student performance to teacher evaluation is a policy that teacher unions nationally and in California have fought, arguing that it is an unfair system due to other factors that influence student performance. For example, the California Teacher Association in 2014 fought the “High Quality Teachers Act of 2014,” a ballot measure that would have tied evaluations in part to student performance. The measure was withdrawn before being put before voters.

“Student outcomes should be determined in a far more robust way than mainly using test scores, such as through student grades, projects, other student work and regular observations,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, according to the Associated Press. “Rather than test-and-punish systems, we need teacher evaluations that will help support and improve teaching and learning.”

Many states have adopted performance-based teacher evaluations in recent years as part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative. Heavy pressure has fallen on California in recent years to change its evaluation policy, but it has steadfastly held its ground. The Obama administration also required that teacher evaluations be tied to student performance for states seeking waivers from the mandates of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and California as a result did not receive a waiver, although six districts, including LA Unified, did receive them.

“Given the fact that California was unable to secure an ESEA waiver because it wouldn’t commit to tying teacher effectiveness to teacher evaluations and the fact that numerous bills both pre- and post- the Vergara decision have attempted to change state policy, it’s clearly not an oversight or lack of awareness that is keeping California from making these changes, but rather a strong interest by prevailing interests in the state to maintain the status quo,” Jacobs said.



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