Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana Undecided On Linking Test Scores, Accountability

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education offered some states with waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law the option to delay incorporating student test scores into teacher evaluations until the end of the current school year.

Indiana is currently in the camp of undecided on whether or not to pursue that option.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will offer flexibility to states in deciding whether to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations next year.

Center for American Progress / Flickr

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will offer flexibility to states in deciding whether to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations next year.

The feds extended Indiana’s NCLB waiver through the 2014-15 school year late last month. The subject of teacher and principal evaluations was one of four areas where the state wasn’t meeting federal expectations.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said her department will consult with other state officials prior to making a decision.

“It is in statute that teachers are evaluated in part by the state assessments and the growth component of that,” Ritz said at a press conference last month after receiving the waiver extension. “I plan on renewing that conversation with state leaders and having a conversation about that and seeing what Indiana might want to do regarding that topic.”

According to Alyson Klein at Education Week, sixteen states with waivers say they will pursue this option; at least eleven say they probably will not. States will apply for the flexibility when they reapply for waiver renewals in spring 2015:

The new flexibility doesn’t have any impact on the department’s plan to offer some states a longer waiver renewal next spring—a reward for staying on track with their teacher evaluation systems […]

So far, nine states have been told by the Education Department that they could be eligible for a longer waiver renewal, including Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Nevada, and Virginia.

Meanwhile, Kansas, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Delaware, South Carolina, Maryland, Idaho, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, and South Dakota have all had their waivers extended, but were not explicitly told they were in the running for a longer renewal, meaning that their teacher evaluation systems may not completely conform to the department’s vision and timeline.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained his decision to offer the option to delay in a separate interview with EdWeek earlier this month:

I think what we’re interested in is getting across the finish line. How you get there and the time in which you get there, that’s really determined at the local level. So what we try to do is provide some flexibility, holding very clear to the goal, but recognizing that some people might need a little more time than others. And in a nation of 50 states [with] education being such a decentralized issue, we thought it was the right thing to do.

According to recent research, many Americans favor this new option. Sixty-one percent of adults surveyed oppose using student test scores in teacher evaluations, according to a Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK)/Gallup poll released Tuesday.

William J. Bushaw, former executive director of PDK, says it’s not surprising that Americans have opinions about teacher appraisal.

“How teachers are evaluated is an important component to teacher quality,” Bushaw says. “If we listen carefully to the opinions of Americans, we need to research better ways to evaluate teachers and principals that are not overly reliant upon how students perform on standardized tests.”

Bushaw also says the findings reflect public attitudes about whether the standardized testing regime ushered in by No Child Left Behind has improved education.

Indiana is among 42 states with a waiver from the federal law.


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