Another runaround

Doing something useful for a change, the federal government said no state could apply for its “Race to the Top” bonus school funding if said state blocked the use of student test data for evaluating which teachers were helping their kids — and which were not.

Sure enough, in subservience to their teacher union masters, the Nevada Legislature had enacted just such a ban. So, during a special session of the Legislature in the spring, state law was revised so student performance data could become a factor in teacher evaluations.

But despite the new law, the Clark County School District is not likely to use student test scores to evaluate teachers for another two years, Superintendent Walt Rulffes said Thursday.

The district needs time to research and test an evaluation program first, district officials said. They also want to collaborate with the teacher unions — who hate the idea — on how the evaluations will be conducted.

In its Race to the Top application, Nevada had pledged to base 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student performance data. (What the other 65 percent would depend on — dress, deportment, union activism? — is not clear.)

And as for the further assertion that “Since state standardized testing doesn’t begin until the fourth grade, there’s no common assessment for kindergarten through third grade,” the district’s wool pullers seem to have forgotten there are lots of teachers and former teachers out here in the Real World, who can and have sat down at a computer and printed out for us samples of the very data we’re being told does not exist.

The schools have just such K-3 test information stored in their Instructional Data Management System. The tests are called “interim assessments” and they evaluate individual student progress or lack thereof. Furthermore, they can be called up by school, by student, or by teacher.

Especially given the pernicious effects of “social promotion,” these are crucial years. By fourth or fifth grade, a child who has been allowed to “slip through” without learning basic grammar, spelling and arithmetic is going to be doomed, academically, without a lot of intensive tutoring.

The government schools must start using this data to evaluate our teachers — even in the lower grades — as soon as possible.

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