This year the Department of Education and Early Development has been working on proposed regulations for teacher evaluations that is part of a larger effort by the State of Alaska to be granted a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
Earlier this month, on December 3rd, DEED revised its proposed regulations from June (where only 20% of a teacher’s evaluation was based on student learning data) to read that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on student learning data by the 2018-19 school year and thereafter. This change was made after public comment had closed and only 3 days prior to their State Board meeting. NEA-Alaska members rallied together to request that DEED re-open the comment period. Below you will find JEA Member Lorrie Heagy’s testimony to the State Board of Education and Early Development:
“Commissioner Hanley, Chariman Merriner and Board Members,
My name is Lorrie Heagy. I am the 2010 Alaska State Teacher of the Year and the music teacher at Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau. I want to first thank you for your service and for your responsiveness to the voices of educators working with the Department of Education on the teacher evaluation process.
I have many concerns about the recent changes proposed by Governor Parnell to link 50% of teacher evaluation to student learning data.
Some of you may remember a year and a half ago in Juneau when I brought thirty Title I kindergartner to the State Board Meeting to share how instrumental music is helping our students build school readiness skills, like focus, discipline and teamwork. Since then opur program has grown to nearly 300 hundred students and just a month ago, PBS in NYC flew to our capital to film JAMM as part of a national professional development series for music educators. By all accounts, JAMM is a very successful program and I, an effective teacher.
I share this because so much of what I do cannot be measured by a standardized test. As an educator, I strongly believe that student data is valuable, but it should not be the only measure of my effectiveness as a teacher. No one test given on any one day can accurately capture what a child can do. This particularly holds true for a specialist, like myself, who only sees a student 45 minutes per week, which adds up to 27 hours of music instruction for the entire year (and that’s only if your music class isn’t on a Monday – that number drops to less than 24 hours then).
Yes, student data needs to be part of the process, but when we place so much emphasis on it to the point that it represents 50% of a teacher’s performance, we need to ask to the exclusion of what?
I had hoped that we learned from the mistakes of No Child Left Behind and its unintended consequences, which for many children throughout Alaska narrowed their school life to math, writing, reading and most recently, science. History, the arts and other important subjects fell to the wayside because a school was being judged for its effectiveness based on a standardized test.
I believe the same consequences will occur if 50% of teacher evaluation is tied to student performance. Many of the skills, habits and complex and creative thinking that our students need to be successful in the 21st century cannot be adequately measured on a computerized test.
I encourage the State Board to re-open a period of public comment so that stakeholders directly affected by these regulation changes will have an appropriate opportunity to review them and submit comments so that we can be sure to fully represent the diversity of Alaska’s students, communities and school districts.”
On December 7th the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development voted to approve the new teacher evaluation regulations. Click here to read their press release.