Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NEA, test scores, and evaluations

EdWeek sums up the National Education Association's comments on the draft rules for RTTT applications this way:
Among other areas, the NEA says it cannot support the fund’s endorsement of using test scores for evaluating teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, and bolstering what the union calls “fast-track” alternative routes to teacher licensure.
Respectfully, I think that overlooks NEA's actual effort to find middle ground on test data and evaluations.

In the full comments (here), NEA suggests amending a key application rule to say:
A state must not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers to linking student achievement or student growth data to teachers for the purpose of planning individualized activities designed to strengthen teachers’ instructional skills and principals’ instructional leadership.
In Kentucky law, the process of using data to identify needed professional development is called formative evaluation. It is (or ought to be) one of the most important ways each school builds teaching quality. NEA's proposal would accept test scores used for that kind of evaluation of individual educators.

NEA rejects using test scores for some other aspects of evaluation, saying it cannot support:
the use of these narrow performance measures for high-stakes decisions (evaluations, compensation, promotions, transfers, tenure, dismissals).
And yet, here's NEA's proposed approach:
For any high stakes purpose associated with personnel decision making or compensation, multiple measures should be used in combination, as all measures give a partial picture of teacher performance. These measures should include evidence of 1) teacher practices, 2) teacher performance, and 3) teacher contributions to student learning.
My added emphasis there confirms that NEA is willing to accept use of student data in combination with other information even for career-ending decisions. The other information is in fact about professional competence, and it does provide knowledge that tests alone could not fill in.

In short, NEA can support student performance data being:
  • used to plan professional growth for individual educators.
  • combined with other information for blunter employment decisions.
  • correlated and analyzed by statewide student information systems.
That's close enough to the administration approach to suggest we may yet see agreement on how to move forward.

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