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House committee approves less emphasis on test results in teacher evaluations
Hall, Gainesville superintendents agree change is needed but differ on specifics of plan
Wanda Creel
Gainesville Superintendent Wanda Creel said the current standard of basing 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on students’ test results is far too much weight for one factor.

Both the Hall County and Gainesville school superintendents agree that the law and rules for teacher evaluations need to be revised, but they differ on a bill that was approved Friday in the House Education Committee.

“There’s an awful lot of consensus that we need to streamline these processes and that we need to make them more user friendly, and I agree with that 100 percent,” Will Schofield, Hall County superintendent, said.

But Schofield also said the state should “think through all the moving parts” and delay action for a year so “we can come up with a thoughtful, long-term plan.”

A House committee unanimously approved a bill that decreases the importance of students’ performance on standardized tests in annual evaluations for public school teachers.

Wanda Creel, superintendent for Gainesville, favors the bill as a way to relieve some pressure on educators.

The bill would cut the percentage of the evaluation based on standardized testing from 50 to 30 percent.

It also would require that students be in school at least 80 percent of the instructional days before their test results would be included in a teacher evaluation.

“I believe that it (the bill) is in the best interests of our teachers,” Creel said. She said she had discussed the relative weight of test scores with state officials and elected representatives.

The bill would introduce sweeping reforms to standardized testing, teacher evaluations and attendance.

Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Republican from Marietta, and chair of the Senate Education Committee, is the primary sponsor.

The bill’s passage was viewed as a major victory by supporters in the education field, who had called for revisions to the state’s current scoring system.

If signed into law, the bill will also move the assessment window back as far in the school year as possible for teachers, principals and vice principals.

After the Senate passed the bill, Richard Woods, state school superintendent, said, “It reflects many of the issues I’ve felt all along are burdensome to student learning and the recruitment and retention of our best teachers.

“Reducing the number of state-mandated tests students must take, and reducing the percentage that student test scores count for teachers’ and leaders’ evaluations, are common-sense moves toward allowing our teachers to be creative and teach rather than focus on a test.”

According to the bill, “student growth,” as assessed on standardized tests, would account for “20 percent of the score on the annual state assessment and the remaining 10 percent may utilize other student growth indicators as allowed by the local school system’s flexibility contract.”

The contract referred to is the agreement between the system and state about what format the system follows. Gainesville is a charter school system. Hall County has applied for a designation known as “strategic waiver school system.”

Schofield said so many factors are unknown — the new state assessment standards, a new teacher evaluation process, the federal law recently reauthorized as Every Student Succeeds Act, rules for teacher certification — “we’re really kind of sitting in no man’s land right now.”

“As I read the bills that are out there, I just have a lot more questions than answers about how all this comes together,” he said.

So Schofield said the state — legislators, Department of Education, governor’s office — should “take a deep breath.”

He added, “We seem to be making some rather arbitrary decisions about some things that are really important.” He pointed out the committee appointed to draft rules about the reauthorization of the education law “hasn’t even met yet.”

He said education has been the focus of “an awful lot of change in a short period of time” and “what we don’t need is to do these things over multiple times.”

Creel said the current standard of basing 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on students’ test results is far too much weight for one factor.

The test results might be from one day of school, she said. That would not account “for all of the other 179 days our children are in school.”

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