The National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education looked at how states are measuring teacher performance and their report found that since 2009, the vast majority of states have made significant changes to how teachers are evaluated for the main purpose of improving instruction.
Jim Hull is a senior analyst for the Center. He says Georgia has made great strides in judging how teachers are doing. “They’re including measures of student achievement. They have annual classroom observations where teachers are evaluated multiple times per year. “ And he says “Those are really two key ingredients to having a successful evaluation system.” Hull stresses that what teachers do matters when it comes to their students’ achievements.
Under the new teacher evaluation system that is being rolled out across the state, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation comes from student achievement, which is measured through test scores. Hull says that’s a good first step, but he’d like to see Georgia go further. There is an evaluation tool called “value-added”. Hull says it helps look at the whole child, including students’ previous achievements, not only in that grade and subject, but in multiple grades and multiple subjects. He says “Many times they include students’ demographics and other characteristics, whether they’re special ed, whether they’re English language learners.” He admits it's controversial, but he believes test scores don't tell the whole story.
But Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, isn’t sure that is the best way to go. He warns “The value-added is sort of a very esoteric system. It’s very complicated. It isn’t easily explained. And there have been some problems with it, you know, around the country.”
Callahan says the jury is still out on Georgia’s new evaluation system. He says “I think there’s some promise to the new system. I don’t think anyone could rightly defend the old system. But right now are more questions than answers .”
One thing that worries him is that school districts are implementing the system in different ways. Calvine Rollins, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, is also concerned that the system isn’t standardized. But she believes as the process moves forward, the kinks will be worked out. Rollins wants to ensure that more focus is put on professional development. She says professional development doesn’t mean a one time workshop. She wants to see more work done with teacher mentors.
Callahan says he’s also concerned that Georgia will be getting a new Superintendent as the new system moves forward. Superintendent John Barge has announced he is running for Governor.