EDITORIAL: Legislation to drop test scores from Nevada teacher evaluations is a bad idea

Six years ago, state lawmakers approved a measure intended to promote accountability by imposing a more demanding teacher evaluation system on Nevada educators.

Rather than simply have principals rate teachers after observing them a few times in the classroom, the legislation, a response to federal mandates, sought to incorporate a number of factors — including student test scores — into the equation.

The controversial proposal met with immediate resistance. Not surprisingly, then, the plan faced constant delays, the victim of bureaucratic inertia and seemingly endless adjustments designed to placate various interests and ensure “fairness” for those involved.

During the 2015-16, school year a version of the new system finally went into effect absent any measure for student performance. But lawmakers in 2015 again insisted that test scores be a part of the mix, and teacher evaluations for the current school year now include that component.

That makes eminent sense. How can you judge the competency of a teacher without paying at least some attention to whether her students have learned the subject matter?

Enter Ozzie Fumo, a Las Vegas Democrat, who has introduced Assembly Bill 212, which would again prohibit the use of test scores in teacher reviews. “A lot of teachers expressed to me their concerns about how they were being evaluated,” Mr. Fumo explained.

In fact, however, Mr. Fumo is running interference for the Nevada State Education Association, whose 2017 legislative wish list includes a bill to “eliminate student test scores from teacher evaluations.”

Interestingly, the Clark County Education Association isn’t so enthusiastic about Mr. Fumo’s legislation. The union’s vice president told the Review-Journal’s Colton Lochhead that he doesn’t think “fully eliminating test scores is the right move.”

Perhaps the folks at the CCEA — unlike their counterparts in the state union — realize that reflexively blocking reform will only reinforce the public’s perception that the education establishment has little interest in being held accountable for the outcomes it produces.

Mr. Fumo’s bill deserves to be set ablaze. The current standards — which include just a 10 percent component for test scores — are already heavily watered down from the 2011 legislation, which called for fully half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student performance. If anything, the test-score metrics should be strengthened, not eliminated.

But let’s at least give the new system a shot rather than hitting reverse and settling for a cozy arrangement that glosses over incompetence and sub-par work as inevitable. Those who ignore the relationship between teacher quality and achievement do not have the best interests at heart of either students or taxpayers.

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