Teachers Express Concern With New TEA Evaluation Pilot Program

May 15, 2014

Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR News

State teachers gave House leaders their take on the new job assessment pilot program designed by the Texas Education Agency. Teachers criticized the use of student test scores to measure job performance, calling the formula “black magic” with no type of scientific evidence.

As part an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, the TEA designed a program for teacher evaluation in order to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind program. The proposed plan gives student end-of-course exams a 20 percent weight, which is a minimum set by federal education officials.

Jennifer Canaday, governmental affairs manager for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said that percentage can be increased by school districts.

"That’s a floor, that’s not a ceiling," Canaday said. "You don’t see a requirement that 80 percent be actually based on the things that happen in the classroom.”

Canaday said there are several myths floating around the education community as it pertains to the new teacher evaluation system. Once such myth is that if the state doesn't fully adopt the new system, it will lose its federal funding. Canaday said if the state doesn't adopt the evaluation system it would likely just lose the waiver and would fall back under the No Child Left Behind program.

Ted Melina Raab with the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers said there is no science behind using student test scores to measure teachers performance because it doesn’t tell educators how to improve.

"Just as if someone came and said, 'Well, we are going to use a Ouija board to evaluate teachers and just work with us and see if it works.' The problem is the proposal is fundamentally flawed,” Melina Raab said.

Others testifying about the effectiveness of project-based learning models, which involves more in-class activities where students input is a value say putting a greater emphasis on testing in teacher evaluation goes in the opposite direction of this type of innovative technology-based classroom.  

Right now the new teacher evaluation system is just a pilot program being used voluntarily by 71 Texas school districts and the TEA cannot mandate that it be used. It is something lawmakers can change during the 2015 legislative session and is something Education Commissioner Michael Williams is banking on.