In 2009, legislatures in New York and California, among other states, enacted laws that limit, to one degree or another, the use of student achievement data in teacher performance evaluations. New York’s legislature prohibited the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was publicly opposed to these laws, saying, “Believe it or not, several states, including New York, Wisconsin, and California, have laws that create a firewall between students and teacher data. I think that’s simply ridiculous. We need to know what is and is not working and why.”
Today, the landscape in New York and California looks a bit different. In March 2011, the New York State Senate passed a bill that makes performance a key factor in teacher layoffs. Education Code 44662 in California requires the governing board of each district to evaluate and assess teacher performance using state standards. The results of the California Standards Tests are factored into each teacher assessment.
Should test data be used to evaluate teachers? If not, then what measures should be used? And how should test data be used with our students? Shouldn’t the data be used to inform how we should be teaching? As a former teacher and the husband of an excellent teacher, I feel we need to have some kind of teacher accountability for the benefit of the students as well as the integrity of the teaching profession. There must be something measurable, such as student improvement and growth that can be tied to a teacher’s evaluation. But there must also be other components, such as a teacher’s ability to inspire, motivate, and nurture, to enter into the evaluation.
And the debate continues.