August 2, 2021

Times Leader Editors: Pa. right to reduce weight of test scores in teacher evaluations

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The Times Leader covers northeastern Pennsylvania. In a recent editorial, they spoke up in favor of new changes in teacher evaluation. Previously, teacher evaluations in Pennsylvania rested almost entirely on standardized test results.

It was an informational item, with only a relatively brief explanation at Monday’s meeting of the committee that runs the West Side Career and Technical Center.

CTC Chief School Administrator Thomas Duffy, who is also Dallas School District Superintendent, gave all those present a quick explanation of something that is largely under the radar for most people: A new teacher evaluation system for the upcoming school year.

There’s an important change in the new evaluation system that’s worth pointing out: It reduces the use of student standardized test results in determining a teacher’s final rating.

This continues a long and, we believe, much needed trend away from high stakes testing. For those who may not have been around or just forgot, the move to massive standardized testing was jump-started by the federal No Child Left Behind law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. It mandated reading and math tests and required schools to steadily increase the percentage of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced,” with the goal of 100% proficient by 2014.

Testing expanded rapidly in Pennsylvania, from two subjects in three grades to multiple subjects in more grades. The “Keystone Exams” were introduced in high schools, with three subjects and plans to add more.

In 2012, the state enacted a new teacher evaluation system that was more thorough and for the most part considerably more useful than the previous “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” system, but it had a flaw: It made students’ standardized test scores a big part of a teacher’s final rating.

So much faith in the value of standardized tests was always misplaced, but it took years for lawmakers to learn that.

Read the complete editorial here.

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