Pennsylvania Teacher Evaluations Will Be Tied To Schools' Test Scores

In this photo taken Aug. 20, 2012, teacher Tammy Schmidt prepares her classroom before meeting new students at Ridgewood Elem
In this photo taken Aug. 20, 2012, teacher Tammy Schmidt prepares her classroom before meeting new students at Ridgewood Elementary School in Hilliard, Ohio. Schmidt is among nearly 109,000 Ohio teachers who will fall under new evaluation criteria starting next summer. (AP Photo/Kantele Franko)

When the new statewide teacher evaluation system takes effect next fall, teachers will be judged not only on how they do in their own classrooms but on how their school does as a whole.

Each school will be awarded a numerical rating using a formula the state Department of Education is developing.

The building rating, which will be made public, will account for 15 percent of an individual teacher's evaluation.

The department last week presented its draft of what it will count to superintendents and other school officials at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Other presentations seeking feedback are being made around the state.

The plan is a result of a new state law requiring half of a teacher's evaluation to be based on classroom observation using a certain framework and the other half on "multiple measures of student achievement."

With the new system, Carolyn Dumaresq, state deputy education secretary, said, "I hope we see an increase in student achievement in Pennsylvania. That's the whole purpose of pushing for more effective teaching."

The law applies to regular public schools but not to charter schools, which also are public schools.

The law permits the Department of Education to approve alternative rating forms that are at least as rigorous.

"Everybody is responsible in that building for the achievement of the child," Ms. Dumaresq said.

"Everybody participates in setting a good learning environment, having children wanting to come to school. ... We feel it really should be more of a team sport," she said.

For most schools, about 80 percent of the current version is based on state test scores in one form or another.

Other factors include Advanced Placement achievement, SAT college entrance exam results, industry certification exams, graduation rates and attendance.

The proposed formula has raised concern among some local school officials.

"Fifteen percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on factors over which many of these teachers have no control," said Shauna D'Alessandro, vice president of the West Jefferson Hills School District and a board member of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

She said the formula doesn't take into account many offerings, such as arts and athletic offerings, pre-kindergarten or all-day kindergarten.

Pine-Richland superintendent Mary Bucci said the formula has "an overall lack of acknowledgement of the economic diversity of school districts."

"There continues to be from Harrisburg an overreliance on test measurements as an indicator of good schools," she said.

Dave Broderic, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the union received the draft Friday and had not analyzed it yet.

The current draft proposal uses scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in math, reading, science and writing in various ways.

Of 100 percent of the academic performance score, 30 percent uses strictly the percentages proficient or advanced on the four state tests.

Extra weight -- 2.5 percent in K-12 schools and 10 percent in K-8 schools -- is given to third-grade reading scores.

"That's when schools change from the teaching of reading to reading to learn. You need to be able to read on grade level," Ms. Dumaresq said. "The research is fairly strong that's a critical year."

Forty percent of the academic performance score considers a school's growth in PSSA results in all four subjects using the state Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System, known as PVAAS.

PVAAS looks to see whether schools moved students at least one year ahead from where they started in one year even if the student didn't reach grade-level academic goals.

Another 10 percent looks at whether the school is closing the achievement gap in each of the four tested areas.

Half of the 10 percent gap measure goes for making progress closing the gap between what the school overall achieved compared to 100 percent proficiency.

The other half of the 10 percent goes for closing the gap between 100 percent proficiency and the performance of a newly created "super-subgroup," which is an unduplicated count of students who are in special education, economically disadvantaged and English language learners.

There need to be at least 40 students in a super-subgroup for it to count.

The benchmark calls for reducing the gap by 50 percent over six years from the 2011-12 baseline.

In comprehensive career technology centers, only 6 percent goes to the two gaps. The heaviest single weight -- 25 percent -- in such schools is for the percent competent or advanced in industry certification exams.

The formula for K-12 and secondary schools gives 2.5 percent of the academic performance score to each of these factors:

--Graduation rate. Full score is a 100 percent four-year graduation rate.

--Attendance. Full score is 100 percent.

--PSAT/NMSQT participation. Full score is 60 percent of the seniors at any point in their school years.

--SAT college entrance exam achievement. Full score is 60 percent of the graduating class earning a 1550 or higher combined for all three parts. Current statewide average score is 1463. The measure does not include ACT college entrance exam scores because the department has been unable to access the data.

--Advanced courses. A full score can be earned by offering dual enrollment or an International Baccalaureate diploma or Advanced Placement courses in four core areas.

For K-8 schools, some of the other factors are promotion rates and attendance, each of which count 5 percent.

In teacher rating as a whole, in addition to the 50 percent for teacher observation and 15 percent for the building, the law provides for 20 percent to be from locally developed measures permitted by the state and 15 percent from "correlation data based on teacher level measures."

The department's model uses individual teacher PVAAS data for that measurement.

The percentages are different for teachers who teach subjects that aren't included in state tests or for teachers who do not have a three-year rolling average of test scores. The building data portion applies only to teachers who are assigned to buildings.

Ms. Dumaresq said the building score is not a large enough to dramatically change the overall score of a teacher who is proficient in the rest of the measures.

Teachers cannot be fired on test scores alone, but they can be fired based on the results of observations, she said.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955. ___

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