North Carolina teacher ratings tied to student test results

More than 75% of teachers in North Carolina  had students who met the state goals on test scores, according to results from the 2012-2013 exams. Twenty-three percent of the teachers had students earn the top rating, which reflects back on how teachers are graded, promoted or potentially let go.

Critics say the rating system is controversial. Last year, North Carolina schools used exams that can be used to evaluate teachers, and in the future, teachers with consistently low scores will be dismissed.

There are six standards used to evaluate North Carolina teachers, and one of these is student test scores. The other five, which include content knowledge and leadership, are based on subjective evaluations, with ratings given on a five-point scale. At least 90% of all teachers statewide and in  rated proficient or higher on those items.

Officials are looking into the data to find a way for principals to identify areas that need work. Human Resources Chief Terri Cockerham says that if a school had teachers rated low on content knowledge they could bring in people to help the teachers understand how to cover the required materials. Higher-rated teachers could be assigned to help their peers.

Many high schools fell below the district average, and some say the students didn’t take the tests seriously.  Jennifer Preston, who works on teacher effectiveness for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said the ratings did vary by subject, but overall the ratings were not low for high school teachers.

Union Schools Superintendent Mary Ellis said her school prepared intensely for the new state tests and Common Core academic standards. North Carolina has spent millions of dollars to prepare their teachers for the new rating system.

“Value added ratings eliminate variables and give a clearer picture of the teacher’s contribution to the success of their students,” said Ellis. “Teachers who show large gains with disadvantaged students score higher, even if their students fall below grade level. Teachers who have students who easily pass exams, like gifted or high performing students, are marked down if their students do not progress well.”

Student pass rates often reflect the demographics of a district or school. Across the country, white, Asian and middle-class students score higher on average than African-American, Hispanic and low-income classmates.