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State Considers Tying Teacher Pay to Student Testing

By: Bianca Spinosa Email
By: Bianca Spinosa Email

July 23, 2010

Rebecca Jasman, a second grade teacher in Louisa County, will never forget the child who showed up in her classroom and could barely read. By the end of the year, Jasman says the child was reading at a second grade level, a huge improvement.

However, in the eyes of the school system, Jasman's little project was a child left behind.

"You can have students who are exceeding your expectations as a teacher but not reaching minimal benchmarks. These are students that can go so far," said Jasman.

It's the classic dilemma of standardized tests. How do you quantify what a student knows? How do you determine who are the best teachers?

The state Department of Education is examining how teachers and administrators are evaluated, and is considering issuing guidelines that would tie teacher pay to student performance.

The Virginia Department of Education plans to come up with new teacher-evaluation guidelines that public schools can use to improve student achievement. The new system also could help school divisions develop performance-based compensation plans.

"It looks like a great idea. Let's reward the teachers that are pulling the better test scores. [But] test scores do not tell you what a student knows. Test scores tell you what a student can do on a test only. It's regurgitation of information," said Jasman.

The State Board of Education claims standardized tests are objective and fair, and therefore an appropriate measure for determining teacher success.

Jasman disagrees.

"If we have to compete in the classroom for students scores, we are not going to be sharing our knowledge, which will hurt our students," she says.

A panel that is developing new evaluation guidelines includes teachers, principals, students and representatives of the Virginia Education Association and other groups.

The work group aims to test its initial evaluation models on districts with high-poverty and low-performing schools next year.

The evaluation models will not be mandatory, the DEA insists.

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