Assessing Quality of Teaching Staff Still Complex Despite ESSA’s Leeway
Despite the tinkering within states, Daniel Weisberg, the CEO of the teacher-training and advocacy group TNTP, said he doesn't see states backing away entirely from considering student growth measures under ESSA's new flexibility. In the No Child Left Behind era, some states already had committed to retooling their evaluation systems to qualify for federal Race to the Top funds.
The goals of that approach—to provide teachers regular feedback on their performance against clear performance standards—are still widely supported by many state officials and others who want hard and fast accountability based on metrics, Weisberg said.
"You haven't seen the clock turn back to 2009, and I don't think you're going to see that," he said.
Not all educators are convinced that student growth measures are the way to ensure equity, but SREB's Baxter said it is a challenge for states to make sure that groups of students are not systematically getting teachers with weaker skills.
"I think states do need to hold districts, and in turn their schools, accountable for some sort of connection between evaluation ratings of the teachers and the success of students," Baxter said. "Having student growth is one way to do that, having student surveys is another way. In the absence of those, we've got to avoid situations where large numbers of teachers in the school are getting high ratings and students aren't growing. ... States need to set up safeguards."
North Carolina's policy of providing teachers and principals student growth data while not mandating its inclusion in evaluations is one such safeguard, he said. Another is Louisiana's public database of teachers' evaluation ratings by school. If there are schools with a large percentage of highly effective teachers, but students aren't progressing, that's a problem, Baxter said.
Weisberg said he hopes states will continue to "provide teachers and principals and school system leaders with meaningful information on how teachers are doing and growing and where they need help."
But, he said, he doesn't expect there to be a consensus among states, when the dust settles: "There isn't a magic bullet answer."
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