Powers of the SBE, Part 3: Student Achievement in Evaluations

The final State Board of Education superpower that we’ll look at for this week is the ability to require that student growth be given significant weight in teacher and principal evaluations.

Now let’s take a time-out to talk about what we mean when we say “student growth” because we know this phrase alarms some interested parties.

We DO NOT mean that a teacher will be penalized for the poor performance of a student with particularly low capacity for academic success. We are NOT talking about comparing a low-performing student to a high-performing student and then penalizing teachers when the numbers don’t match up.  That just wouldn’t be fair. And it also wouldn’t tell us whether a teacher or principal is doing a good job.

What we ARE talking about is comparing each student to his or her own progress.  The key word is “growth” here; we want to see that all students, even the less academically inclined, are learning something, and making consistent progress, every year. That’s why we send them to school, right?

So HOW can we measure this type of growth? It’s explained really well in this article by The Education Trust. The process basically requires looking at multiple years of data on each teacher’s or principal’s individual students, and figuring out how much academic growth these students have normally made year-to-year. That way, we can set a prediction for what each student’s growth should be if his or her teacher does the job right. A successful teacher’s students will meet that expectation. An excellent teacher’s students will exceed it (i.e., an excellent teacher’s students will grow more under that teacher’s tutelage than he or she has in previous years).

The State Board of Education has the statutory authority to adopt a model evaluation program, with indicators of student growth. And the Board can choose how large a role this indicator should play in evaluating teachers and principals. It makes sense to us that student growth should play a significant role in determining whether our teachers and principals are performing well. Every other professional in the country is evaluated based upon how well the job is done.

What do you think?

And, while your mulling it over, don’t forget that the Board has other powers as well – beyond the three we’ve looked at this week. Check out some others that we have outlined here. Let’s flex those muscles, SBE!