Arlington teachers will soon be evaluated at least in part on the test scores of their students.
A Virginia law passed in April mandates that up to 40 percent of a teacher’s performance rating be based on student academic progress, measured by standardized test scores and other factors. Arlington and other districts have till July 1, 2012, to enact the new process.
The new mandate leaves districts to resolve questions such as how to evaluate teachers in subjects outside standardized test areas, such as music, foreign languages and physical education. Arlington and other districts will also have to decide how to compare test scores from year to year – will a teacher get credit if a student makes a year’s worth of improvement, even if that student is still working below grade-level? How do you test students who enter the system in the middle of the school year, without previous scores to use for comparison?
The student achievement mandate is likely to be controversial in Arlington, where parents and educators are already concerned that teachers are forced to limit their lesson plans and teach strictly to the tests.
Grappling with these questions is a county advisory committee with 25 teachers, principals and staff members from schools across the county. They began work on reforming the evaluation process last month.
“We just don’t know what the evaluation process will be yet,” said Wanda Perkins, president of the Arlington Education Association.
But the president of the state teachers group warned the Virginia Board of Education, when it adopted the new evaluation rules, that measuring teacher effectiveness based on student test scores might not lead to better instruction.
Said Kitty Boitnott, Virginia Education Association president, in comment before the board voted in Richmond: We are "very concerned about the emphasis on standardized tests, which, we argue, have shown no evidence to date of actually improving student achievement and may, in fact, be responsible for the narrowing of curriculum and may ultimately have detrimental impacts on students."