Test scores in teacher evaluations to move forward in Nevada

LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s schools chief says he expects test scores to be tied to teacher evaluations as planned next year, despite a recent overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law that no longer requires states to do so.

Steve Canavero, the interim state superintendent, said any effort to drop or substantially change the role of test scores in Nevada’s statewide educator performance evaluation system would require legislative action in the next session in 2017.

“The short answer is I don’t know specifically, but at the same time, I don’t know if there’s going to be any change to the way the state has approached teacher evaluations,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

State lawmakers created the Teachers and Leaders Council of Nevada in 2011 to set up the new evaluation system, initially tying half of a teacher’s performance review to student scores.

The move was made to meet the No Child Left Behind mandates approved in 2002, which required states to significantly tie student performance on statewide tests to teacher evaluations. The law also prescribed that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014, which ultimately led the Obama administration to issue waivers to more than 40 states.

A sweeping overhaul of that landmark law was approved this month. Though students must still be tested in a statewide exam, how the scores are used will be determined by the states under their own accountability measures. Some states already have incorporated student test scores in teacher evaluations, but there’s no longer a mandate to do so.

Canavero said the future of teacher evaluations will be discussed as Nevada works to understand what the new education law means for the state. Though he didn’t rule out the possibility that Nevada could end up reversing course on the process now years in the making, the superintendent also said it would be unlikely for that to happen outright.

The forthcoming evaluation system has been refined every legislative session since the state began making the rules for its implementation. The timeline to phase it in was first extended in 2013. This year, legislators also approved another change lowering the total weight of student scores used. By the time the system is fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on test scores, half of which will come from the statewide exam.

The Nevada State Education Association is pushing for Nevada to further dilute the weight of the test scores, said Ruben Murillo, president of the group representing 24,000 teachers and support staffers. The concept has long been loathed by teachers who say it’s an unfair way to evaluate their performance and creates a distracting focus on testing that takes away from learning.

“We would absolutely support lowering from 40 percent to something that’s realistic,” Murillo said.

For now, the state is preparing for the program to be phased in. Student scores from the statewide test that will be taken in a few months will factor in as 10 percent of a teacher’s performance review next year, with another 10 percent coming from local assessments. The state will process the raw data and turn it over to the school districts, which will incorporate it into their own designed evaluation systems.

“That’s what you get for (having) a legislature that meets every other year,” Murillo said.


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