A new evaluation system, being driven by strings attached to federal Race to the Top funds, will grade how teachers are doing in their classrooms based largely on the results of student test scores. The system is gearing up to be implemented across Georgia in the 2014-15 school year.
A state law passed last session mandates all school districts adopt a teacher evaluation system. Created by the state Board of Education, it is costing districts in time and money, and will tie student achievement on tests to teacher evaluations.
Cobb County Board of Education members are skeptical of the new system, and teachers are concerned their jobs will be hung on student test scores.
Cobb Board of Education members were concerned with the time, money and effort it would take teachers to write evaluations tailored for non-tested subjects like music, art and physical education.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me. If we have these state standards, why don’t they come with the evaluations?” asked Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci.
It will require teachers in each of the state’s 181 school districts to create tests specific to their subjects, sucking up hours of time and costing already struggling districts thousands of dollars in substitute-teaching fees.
At a board meeting last week, Michael Shanahan, Chief Human Resources Officer for Cobb predicted a switch to the new evaluation system would cost the district $1 million.
Roughly $600,000 of that would be spent on paying substitute teachers, who would man classrooms while teachers were out writing more than 200 new tests.
An additional $400,000 would be spent on logistics and training, the district predicted.
Board members were worried they were being forced to pay without an assurance the district wouldn’t be writing new evaluations a few years down the road.
“It seems puzzling about every five to 10 years we have to reinvent the wheel to evaluate teachers. I wonder if this will be a satisfying outcome and if in five to 10 years we will have to reinvent the wheel again,” asked board Vice Chair Randy Scamihorn.
Half of teachers’ evaluation based on test scores
The new system will now grade teachers annually on how their students perform in the classroom. Half of their evaluations will be based off student test results, said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the DOE.
“Teachers are very concerned about it. They are especially concerned that at least half of their evaluation score will be based solely on test results,” said John Adams, the executive director of Educators First, an advocacy group for teachers.
Adams believes evaluations should focus on more than just test scores.
“A lot of the test scores in and of themselves do not measure everything that is going on in the classroom,” he added.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, said he was confident with the new system. He had heard positive reviews from teachers and principals during his state-wide summer listening tour.
“Student learning, that’s our core business. I don’t think that’s a fallacy. I think you need to be able to effectively measure the progress a student makes every year, (which is) more important than where they are on the continuum of education achievement. I believe this document can do that. I don’t think that is unreasonable if you have a student achievement component,” Tippins said.
While he had heard writing the new tests was time-consuming, Tippins was confident the new evaluation would effectively improve Cobb schools.
“I think this is a fair evaluation piece. I’m not going to tell you it’s perfect,” he said, but “It’s a vast improvement over the situation that we have now.”
Many districts told the state DOE they wanted to maintain as much control over their own district’s evaluation systems, Cardoza said.
“Now, many of them will say, they wanted the state to do it,” he added, because of the time required for writing the new tests.
“It is very, very difficult work for everybody involved, and the end result, time will tell. It is good. You won’t find teachers who are against accountability,” Cardoza said.
Funding from Obama administration
This evaluation system was created in 26 districts after Georgia received $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds issued by President Obama’s Department of Education, Cardoza said.
These districts created the new system, which was adopted by the state DOE in spring 2012, he added.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires each of Georgia’s 181 school districts to develop and use an evaluation system.
Cobb and Marietta schools are on track to begin evaluating its teachers with the evaluation systems in the 2014-15 school year, spokesmen for each district said.
Marietta City Schools also spending more
Marietta City Schools hired two additional staff members to help write their own evaluations, which cost the district roughly $189,000. At a December meeting, the Marietta Board of Education approved spending $65,000 to hire an additional administrator to help write the new tests, after hiring Raquel Rimpola to help implement the teacher evaluation system in August 2013. Her salary and benefits costs the district $124,032 annually, said Thomas Algarin, a spokesman for the district.