Most states link student learning to teacher reviews

Jennifer C. Kerr
Associated Press

Washington — The vast majority of states now require that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on student test scores — up sharply from six years ago. And in many states, those performance reviews could lead to a pink slip.

The comprehensive state-by-state analysis released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows 42 states,including Michigan, and the District of Columbia have policies on the books requiring that student growth and achievement be considered in evaluations for public school teachers. In 2009, only 15 states linked scores to teacher reviews.

In 28 states, teachers with “ineffective ratings are eligible for dismissal,” said the report by the Washington-based think tank.

A majority of states adopted performance-based teacher evaluations as part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, which has awarded $4 billion in grant money to states that promised reforms such as linking test scores to teacher reviews and adopting higher academic standards such as Common Core.

Other states have been pushed to adopt reforms in exchange for administration waivers giving states a pass on some of the requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law. More than 40 states have received waivers since 2012.

“The bottom line of teaching is whether or not students are learning,” said Sandi Jacobs, the council’s senior vice president of state and district policy. “If you stand up in front of a classroom every day and deliver great lesson after great lesson but no one in the class is gaining anything, then something is off.”

For 16 states, including Colorado and Connecticut, student growth is the key factor in teacher evaluations.

In Washington D.C., several hundred teachers have been fired since 2009 over poor performance reviews. Test scores made up 35 percent of evaluations for those teaching students in tested grades and subjects. But last year, the D.C. public school system suspended the practice of linking test scores to teacher evaluations while students adjust to new tests based on Common Core standards. The moratorium will be lifted next school year, according to the press secretary for schools.

The council’s Jacobs says no state considers student achievement as the sole criteria for judging teachers.

The emphasis on test scores has long been a contentious issue with teachers’ unions and even parents who worry about over-testing.

“Student outcomes should be determined in a far more robust way than mainly using test scores, such as through student grades, projects, other student work and regular observations,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Wednesday.

List of states linking scores to teacher reviews

Most states now require that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on student test scores, according to a state-by-state analysis released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

States where student test scores are the key factor in teacher evaluations:

Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee as well as the District of Columbia.

States where student test scores play a significant role in teacher evaluations:

Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia.

States that require student growth in evaluations, but it doesn’t play a significant role:

Massachusetts, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

States where there’s no formal policy linking student test scores to teacher evaluations:

California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont.

States with policies on paper, in the form of waivers granted by the Education Department, but according to the council haven’t implemented teacher ratings linked to student achievement:

Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas.

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality