CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia is considering expanding a teacher evaluation pilot program in order to seek a waiver from the constraints of a federal education law.
The House Education Committee advanced a bill Thursday that would require all schools in the state to use the new teacher evaluation system by the 2013-2014 school year. The pilot program is in its first year and just 25 schools are participating prompting questions whether it is too soon to take the program statewide.
The bill would require all teachers, including veteran educators, to have annual performance evaluations. Five percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on standardized test scores and 15 percent would be based on student’s growth from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year. Teachers would also have the ability to present evidence to their principals documenting that student growth.
Teachers would be required to draft career goals and to file those through a Web site. The department of education plans to review the goals and provide examples of the type of skills and abilities they should aim for as teachers begin using the new system, said Amelia Davis Courts, an assistant superintendent with the West Virginia Department of Education, which is supervising the pilot program.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has asked for the expansion in the pilot program and the Senate is considering a similar bill.
Courts said expanding the evaluation program statewide is needed to apply for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, which requires every child in the United States to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The waivers would grant the states the flexibility to develop their own programs to improve student achievement.
Under the law, schools must meet increasingly higher benchmarks each year in areas like graduation rates, attendance, and test scores making it difficult for even well-performing schools to meet the benchmark. Last year, 48 percent of West Virginia’s public schools met federal yearly progress requirements.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday that 10 states have been granted a waiver from the law, which his administration has described as flawed.
States seeking waivers must meet certain criteria like rewarding schools with high achievement and identifying struggling schools. Other requirements include setting curriculum standards and benchmarks, Courts said.
But states must also evaluate teachers annually and base that evaluation in part on student achievement, she said.
“AYP has been a tremendous pressure on teachers for accountability,” said Rosemary Jenkins, with the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia, which represents 15,000 educators and support staff in the state.
Teachers have faced increasing scrutiny to improve test scores and meet the benchmarks laid out in the federal law and they’ve been asked to do more each year. West Virginia’s teachers are concerned about adding even more work to their plate, Jenkins said.
Some state legislators are hesitant to expand the evaluation pilot program without any data available to know how it affected student learning or teachers’ classroom skills. But the public expects teachers to be evaluated regularly and the bill would give educators more say in that process, said Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette.
“It’s an attempt to send a message to the public that we’ll hold teachers more accountable and responsible, if it passes,” Perry said.