After years of tweaks that prolonged its rollout, the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers could be scrapped completely.
Assembly Bill 212, introduced to the Assembly on Monday, would eliminate the use of student test scores in evaluating teachers in Nevada.
Evaluations that include test scores were introduced in 2011 but tweaked in 2013 and 2015, causing implementation to drag out several years. The system relies on a combination of test scores and administrators’ observations to create a statewide evaluation standard.
But the bill was met with caution from the state’s biggest teachers union and outright opposition from the state Department of Education.
“We are confident in the system we currently have,” said Dena Durish, deputy superintendent for the Department of Education.
Durish said the department planned to testify against the bill when it comes up in the Nevada Legislature.
“We are absolutely confident we need to give the evaluation system a chance to work. It is a true reflection of what’s occurring in the classroom,” Durish added.
Under the current system, teachers are rated as highly effective, effective, minimally effective or ineffective.
For the 2016-17 teacher ratings, 80 percent comes from the principal’s observation. The remaining 20 percent is based on student test scores and split into two categories: 10 percent based on comparisons to state testing and 10 percent based on individual students’ growth. Those percentages are scheduled to switch to 60, 20 and 20, respectively, beginning next school year.
“It has a good balance of proficiency and growth, just like our school accountability framework,” Durish said.
“It’s important to note teachers, with their administrators, can set their own student learning goals for half of their academic piece.”
But that process is unfair to the teachers, according to Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor. It was a complaint the freshman lawmaker heard from several teachers on the campaign trail last year.
“A lot of teachers expressed to me their concerns about how they were being evaluated,” Fumo added.
The system leaves teachers vulnerable to circumstances outside of their control, Fumo said.
If a student is habitually absent, Fumo noted as an example, that student’s scores will be counted the same as one with perfect attendance.
The union that represents teachers in Southern Nevada is wary of supporting Fumo’s bill, said Theo Small, vice president of the Clark County Education Association.
Small said he knows some teachers will like the idea, but he doesn’t think fully eliminating test scores is the right move.
Small also sits on a state Board of Education committee that worked on the evaluation standards. Small said he was surprised to hear of the proposal because Fumo never reached out to the union or committee.
That committee, he said, has been working on drafting a separate bill that would remove the statewide assessment portion of the evaluation while keeping the student growth scores at 20 percent.
“A lot of folks will really want to see the growth,” Small said.
The union would oppose having the evaluation based solely on a principal’s observations, which is how teachers have historically been evaluated in Nevada, Small added.