OK legislation ending test-score based teacher evaluations benefits students


by Brian Washington

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In Oklahoma, educators say they just got a ray of hope that will give them some room to breathe and enjoy what they love—providing students with the type of education that triggers their curiosity, imagination, and desire to learn.

That ray of hope is House Bill 2957—which was recently signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin and takes effect next year.

HB 2957 will eliminate the portion of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) evaluation system educators say was driving up stress levels and forcing quality teachers out of the profession.

OK educator Elise Robillard (center) posing with education colleagues

“We think it (HB 2957) will stop the flight from our profession,” said Elise Robillard, a Moore Public Schools classroom veteran with 16-years of experience and National Board Certification. “This was the number one cause in my district of teachers leaving the profession. They thought it (TLE) was so unfair and impossible for them to be seen as the great professionals that they are.”

That’s because, prior to HB 2957, teachers were rated based on how their students performed on one high-stakes test. It’s called the value-added model.

“If the student scores as they were predicted to score, then the teacher is deemed to be of value to the student,” said Amy Braun, an assistant principal in Moore. “But if the student didn’t score as predicted, for whatever reason, then the teacher did not add value.”

A teacher’s value to a child’s education should not be based on this one test. In many cases there have been state Teachers of the Year that have received horrible value-added scores.

And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, educators say data obtained from the TLE test was unreliable.

“So here we are spending millions of dollars, diverting money away from our students and away from the classroom, on testing we as educators had no confidence in because the test was inadequate and deeply flawed,” said Robillard.

The good news is the state will no longer require local school districts to use high-stakes tests to evaluate educators—although some districts may still opt to do so, but at their own expense.

Amy Braun
OK educator Amy Braun

“I think we will only have one district in the entire state that will continue using value-added,” said Braun.

Braun is a member of The Education Association of Moore (TEAM), which represents hundreds of educators throughout the district. Robillard is TEAM’s president. TEAM worked with its state counterpart, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), to get the ball rolling on changing the TLE. However, it took more than just educators to get HB 2957 through the legislature.

“We tried to fight it (TLE) as teachers and we had no success,” said Robillard. “School administrators got on board with us early on and we made a little bit of headway with the State Department of Education but we saw no movement at the legislature. We knew to get it moved at the legislature we had to unify and involve parents and the entire community, and we were successful in doing that.”

Fifty-percent of the TLE involved qualitative evaluation measures, like principal observations. That part will remain intact. Eventually, each educator will assist in creating their own professional development plan for what they and their students need to work on.

“We’re giving autonomy back to the teachers to focus on what they believe they need to work on in their own teaching practice,” said Braun.

With this victory under their belt, Oklahoma educators say they will now turn their attention to the frequency of testing that’s occurring in the state. However, for now, they’re happy with the progress being made so far.

“Oklahoma needs this. To finally have some good policy in place that allows us to meet the needs of our students and enjoy our profession, it literally changes the moral,” said Robillard. “For sure, good people, talented educators, they will stay in the profession because of it.”

Reader Comments

  1. VAM has been “slammed” — quoting The Washington Post — by the very people who know the most about data measurement: The American Statistical Association (ASA). So every teacher who is unfavorably evaluated on the basis of students’ standardized test scores should vigorously oppose the evaluation, citing the ASA’s authoritative, detailed, seven-page VAM-slam “Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment” as the basis to have public employment boards and courts toss out any test-based Value Added Model (VAM) unfavorable evaluation.

    Moreover, a copy of the VAM-slam ASA Statement should be posted on the union bulletin board at every school site throughout our nation and should be explained to every teacher by their union at individual site faculty meetings so that teachers are aware of what it says about how invalid it is to use standardized test results to evaluate teachers.

    Even the anti-public school, anti-union Washington Post newspaper said this about the ASA Statement: “You can be certain that members of the American Statistical Association, the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, know a thing or two about data and measurement. The ASA just slammed the high-stakes ‘value-added method’ (VAM) of evaluating teachers that has been increasingly embraced in states as part of school-reform efforts. VAM purports to be able to take student standardized test scores and measure the ‘value’ a teacher adds to student learning through complicated formulas that can supposedly factor out all of the other influences and emerge with a valid assessment of how effective a particular teacher has been. THESE FORMULAS CAN’T ACTUALLY DO THIS (emphasis added) with sufficient reliability and validity, but school reformers have pushed this approach and now most states use VAM as part of teacher evaluations.”

    The ASA Statement points out the following and many other failings of testing-based VAM:

    > “VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.”

    > “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions.”

    “System-level conditions” include everything from overcrowded and underfunded classrooms to district-and site-level management of the schools and to student poverty.

    Fight back! Never, never, never give up!

  2. The one problem that we still face is properly identifying which test some of our students will/should take. I’m talking specifically about the 7th & 8th grade math students who are taking the advanced (high school level) courses. They are taught the Algebra and Geometry skills and standards eqaul to the high school grade level, and more, but now will be taking a test written over 7th and 8th grade math skills and standards. Am I expected to teach multiple courses at the same time, to the same group of students? If I am teaching Algebra I to 7th & 8th grade students, then I need to teach this subject well and in its entirety. But for testing purposes only, I am also going to teach 7th grade math and 8th grade PreAlgebra at the same time to the same students. Don’t forget, this all has to be accomplished by mid-April so they are ready for their test. I am a confident teacher, but I also believe this is unfair for these students.

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