Response to today’s conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog were unimpressed with the state’s efforts to evaluate and grade teachers in disciplines where there are no standardized tests, including band, art, foreign language and P.E. The state will rely on alternative measures called Student Learning Objectives or SLOs to judge teacher effectiveness, including pre and post tests. Because the tests and cut-off scores used to rate teachers vary from district to district, there are concerns about the reliability of these alternatives, as the blog comments show.

Teacher: The SLO implementation is a huge mess. On any given day, the guidelines from the Department of Education can change … and sometimes are dependent on who you talk to. Cost (printing, Scantrons, etc.) to implement SLOs at the district level needs to be addressed. The quality of assessments is an issue. The state "exemplars" are still a work in progress. The paperwork to create new SLOs is lengthy and costly (substitutes, loss of instructional time, etc.). Then there is the data. I'm not sure the DOE is prepared to deal with the vast quantities of pre and post assessment scores that will roll in by June, 2015. Talk to Race-to-the-Top districts. Ask them about determining student growth using SLOs. Ask them if they feel the "accuracy" of the student growth model will hold up in court.

Red: SLOs can't tell you whether a band student, for example, ever bothered to practice his scales or sight reading. And yet we want to base half of a teacher's evaluation on that? That would be like evaluating a car salesman's effectiveness on whether his customers pay their car notes.

InTeach: Many districts require the SLOs to be in multiple-choice format. That is not how foreign languages and music or art are taught today. What happened to the performance-based assessments that we are supposed to use? Not for SLOs, apparently. So we are teaching one way, but are assessing another way for our evaluations. I thought it was a bad practice to assess differently from how we teach. But foolish me; we are just teachers, what do we know about teaching? Everyone seems to be more of an expert on teaching than teachers.

Peek: The reason we have so many of the issues in education is because bureaucratic decisions are being made by people who have not stepped foot inside a classroom as an educator.

Q: This year, our students will miss out on almost two weeks of teaching during their arts block in order to give these SLO tests. Furthermore, there is a very real possibility that our younger elementary students will have to take the new Georgia Milestone tests on the computer, including the written response portion. That's right — my lower elementary students will be expected to answer extended answer questions and complete a writing evaluation by typing out the answers. We don't teach typing. We have no time to teach typing. … So how well do you really think they will be able to do? Do you really think they will be able to show what they know and understand? Or will they be limited by their inability to type?