David Snyder

Evaluating Teachers of Non-Tested Subjects in the Age of Value-Add

With many U.S. states overhauling their teacher evaluation systems and introducing student test scores as a factor, how can schools ensure fair evaluation of teachers of non-tested subjects, like art and physical education? One of the first states to begin implementing evaluation reform was Tennessee, and back in February, Education Week's Teaching Now blog noted the efforts of arts teachers in Memphis to devise alternative evaluation criteria based on portfolios, work that went on to be lauded by Arne Duncan. Absent alternative criteria, such teachers would be evaluated in part on a schoolwide value-added score unrelated to their subject specifically.

Curious how this effort was unfolding, I took a look at Teacher Evaluation in Tennessee: A Report on Year 1 Implementation (PDF), issued by the Tennessee Department of Education in July. Echoing the Teaching Now post, it states, "Teachers in subjects and grades that do not yield an individual value-added score consistently noted that having 35 percent of their score based on schoolwide data is not reflective of their performance. Most educators support the development of individual assessments or, in the alternative, believe the weight of schoolwide data in their evaluation should be decreased." The report notes promising results from a pilot of the Memphis proposal and plans for it to be implemented: "pending approval by the State Board of Education, this model would be in use in the 2012–13 school year, at districts' discretion."

A chart on page 17 of the report details efforts of groups representing all non-tested subject teachers in the state—from physical education to career and technical education—to devise alternative evaluation criteria, and it is a good reference for educators looking to kick-start similar efforts in other states. Teacher evaluation reform is grabbing headlines across the country, but its effect on teachers of non-tested subjects is an underreported issue. Here's hoping that solutions devised with educator input continue to emerge.

Comments (6)

Lilo Wolfe

December 9, 2012

I wonder if we looked at the assessments to see if students’ scores were higher if they were also taking classes in one of the arts.  There has been research in the past that showed when the arts were taken out of schools due to financial needs, the test scores went down.  I believe it was Detroit.

Joanna Faerber

December 10, 2012

I believe this is a GREAT opportunity for teachers to “justify” the necessity of their subject in the school.  If we are not asssessing learning then we are just a break.  Physical education teaches the whole child and a healthy body is critical to the students academic performance.  Teachers continually assess, modify, and re assess.

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