Performance-based Teacher Assessment Begins in Arizona

Students in the Scottsdale Unified School District in Arizona have begun their school year by taking tests. Lots of tests. They will end their year the same way. And the results will, for the first time, have an impact on more than just them. Starting this year, the results of students achievement testing will play a part in the system used to assess the performance and effectiveness of their teachers.

In the Arizona Republic, Mary Beth Faller writes that although Arizona’s school districts aren’t required to use objective student achievement criteria as part of teacher evaluations until next school year, some districts are not waiting for the deadline. By 2014-15 up to 40% of teachers’ performance pay will be determined by test scores or similar assessment metrics, and the districts’ early experimentation could be an effort to get the balance just right before the stakes get very high.

The state Board of Education set a framework requiring that one-third to one-half of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student data, but beyond that, districts and charters can create their own assessments. So, there is much variety in what they will look like.

While some districts have spent money to purchase a system developed by a third party — including Chandler Unified School District which spent more than $160,000 on the one designed by Marzano Research — others chose to develop one in house or alter the system they’ve been using all along. The Fountain Hills School District officials felt that spending money on an evaluation model was something that they couldn’t afford. Instead, they will continue to use an evaluation based on classroom observations and combining that grade with student achievement data.

Districts are required to work the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards exam scores into the formula, but are free to add other data including scores from exams designed and administered locally. The issues arise out of the fact that AIMS scores only cover certain subjects, with teachers in areas not covered by AIMS assessed via school-wide AIMS data.

But the Scottsdale district wanted as many teachers as possible to have results from their own students.

So, teachers and administrators spent the past year developing their own tests for subjects including art, music, physical education, world languages and other non-AIMS classes.

The tests include a 45-question, multiple-choice pre-assessment — which was administered districtwide the past two weeks — and an end-of-year test.

The difference in the results from the beginning and the end of the year will be used to assess student progress and account for a third of a teacher’s final effectiveness and performance rating.

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