TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has until next spring to revise how it evaluates teachers so that they're judged partly by how well their students score on standardized tests, education officials told members of the state school board Tuesday.
The federal government is pushing for the changes by making them a condition for waiving key provisions of No Child Left Behind, the law enacted a decade ago requiring all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. With its promise to pursue the revisions in teacher evaluations, the state obtained the waiver, giving Kansas greater flexibility in measuring how well their students are being taught.
Kansas Department of Education officials told State Board of Education members Tuesday that a commission of teachers and administrators plans to start work in September on proposals for revising teacher evaluations. Though changes wouldn't take effect until fall 2014, the commission is expected to make its first report in December, so that board members can approve revisions next year.
"We have the course of this school year to figure that out," said Judi Miller, the department administrator who oversees the state's effort to comply with the federal law.
Kansas typically has left decisions about how to evaluate teachers to its 286 local school districts, but the state board can set guidelines and review districts' plans. Traditionally, teachers have been judged based on issues such as acting professionally, having orderly classrooms and following academic standards.
The state began pilot programs last year in 17 districts to test new methods for evaluating teachers and administrators, focusing, for example, on how well teachers know the subject they teach and how flexible they are in dealing with students of different abilities.
But Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker noted that none of the projects incorporated students' scores on assessments.
"There's still work to be done," DeBacker said.
The U.S. Department of Education has granted No Child Left Behind waivers to more than 30 states, including Kansas in June. Otherwise, as 2014 approaches, an increasing number of students must be proficient in reading in math.
Educators see the targets as increasingly tougher to reach, while many schools that continue to fail to meet them can be required to take aggressive action, including firing staff or even closing. For example, in Kansas last school year, districts were required to have nearly 91 percent of their students proficient in reading and 88 percent in math, based on their assessment scores.
Under the waiver, schools can be recognized as for high assessment scores overall or for large improvements in their scores. Schools also can be targeted for help from the state either because their assessment scores are low overall or because there are gaps among different groups of students.
Outgoing board member Walt Chappell, of Wichita, predicted that the state will face extra costs in trying to comply with the waiver's terms, despite assurances to the contrary. He said the pilot projects on evaluations suggest changes will create more paperwork for teachers and administrators and still create a "fuzzy" system for judging teachers.
"No Child Left Behind was absolutely worthless — an abomination — but we haven't improved," said Chappell, who lost his GOP primary race this year to a retired Wichita schools administrator. "This is going to be extremely expensive, if it works at all."
Kansas State Department of Education: http://www.ksde.org/
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