Broad praise for change in teacher evaluations

In its first hearing, legislation that seeks to lighten the load of tests on teachers drew effusive praise.

Senate Bill 364 by Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, would roll back the use of student test results in teacher evaluations. The law currently mandates that at least half of each teacher's job evaluation be based on them, but Tippins would drop that to 30 percent.

State Superintendent Richard Woods and representatives from several groups that advocate for teachers, school superintendents, school boards and other educational leaders all praised the legislation. So did Cobb County teacher and parent Michele Willis, who cited her own son’s behavior as evidence of the omnipresence of tests in young children’s lives.

With her superintendent standing at the back of the room in support, she told lawmakers that her boy spends about 20 days a year taking tests. He and his friends have grown so accustomed to it that it has affected the way they speak, she said, noting that on Sunday morning when they discussed what to have for breakfast, he suggested “A. eggs, B. bacon. C. fruit or D. all of the above.”

That drew laughter from the audience but Willis’ fellow teacher, Erin Baker, offered more sobering effects, noting that some children suffer panic attacks, headaches or stomach sickness. Others do not take the tests seriously, randomly filling in their answers, she said.

Another bill by Sen. William T. Ligon, Jr., R-Brunswick, would drop the tests to 10 percent of each evaluation. His Senate Bill 355 hasn't had a hearing yet. He said Thursday that the two bills hit a lot of the same points but differ in details. "We'll see if we can maybe merge some of these things together," he said.