May 13 2014

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Schools’ testing questioned

The president of the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT,) Linda Bridges, has commented on the Texas Education Agency’s guidelines for evaluating teachers. These evaluations are 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 the Houston ISD, which now is the target of a lawsuit against its faculty evaluation system,” she said. “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 throughout Texas are speaking out against what they perceive as overtesting and how it is hindering the education of schoolchildren. The state’s top education official, however, is advocating increasing standardized testing. Many teachers are disillusioned with standardized testing, believing that it actually hinders real teaching and learning. 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 plan to increase this alleged misuse of test scores, relying on black-box formulas for evaluations will likely add to the consternation among parents, teachers and students.

“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,” said Bridges. “Yet the commissioner apparently aims to circumvent state law, demand that school districts show “fidelity” to his apparent scheme and forge ahead with this flawed model under the guise of compliance with bureaucratic edicts from his counterparts in the federal government.”

Bridges went further in her comments on the situation.

“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 insure they are both learning the curriculum and learning how to think critically and creatively,” Bridges said. “As professionals we understand the importance of fair and supportive evaluations, and we’ll continue to fight for a system that achieves that goal.”

Contributing writer Kelly Bell

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