Five Kentucky teachers told a newly formed advisory panel Friday that student achievement should be part of teacher evaluations in the future, but factors besides test scores should be part of that equation.
The teachers said evaluations should take into account students' individual progress, not just their scores on standardized tests.
"I think it's more about how much you've moved them, not about where you end up at," Buffy Sexton, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County, told about 50 people attending the debut meeting of the Prichard Committee's Team on Teacher Effectiveness. Sexton was joined by four of her colleagues, all from Jefferson and Fayette counties.
The panel was formed by the nonprofit Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an education advocacy group based in Lexington. Its goal is to make recommendations for the 2014 legislative session.
Kentucky is in the midst of massive public school reforms. Among the areas being examined are new ways to measure teacher effectiveness.
The teachers also urged the panel to examine ways to help pay for getting master's degrees, which are required under Kentucky law for public school teachers. The requirement puts a huge financial burden on teachers new to the profession, they said.
"That would be a great place for Kentucky to start" in looking toward better ways to retain quality teachers, said Alison Crowley, an algebra and calculus teacher at Lexington's Lafayette High School.
The teachers also said that incentive pay aimed at attracting and retaining math and science educators or enticing teachers to work at low-performing schools is a controversial issue that needs further study.In the interest of full disclosure, Ali Crowley is a former Doc student of mine who teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experience, she is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team. Crowley participates in Ed Week's Teaching Ahead Roundtable.
Crowley also addressed the thorny issue of standardized testing, saying she estimated she spent almost 25 percent of her time last year either preparing for or administering a host of different assessments. She added that teachers "want the best for our kids," and urged the panel to examine whether all the standardized tests actually provide valuable data.
The teachers agreed that mentoring programs should be strengthened to help retention rates and said professional development opportunities should be more practical.
Robin Reid, a high school social studies teacher in Fayette County, said professional development should be individualized for each teacher, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that meets district-wide goals but might not be practical.
"If the teachers aren't engaged in the professional development, how can we ask the teachers to engage their students?" added Crowley.
Working conditions were also briefly addressed. The teachers agreed that the top priority is for teachers to feel they are backed by administrators.
Teachers are a "rare breed," said Pat Thurman, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County. "We will work under terrible conditions ... if we see that we are having an impact."
The teacher effectiveness panel, made up of educators, legislators, advocates and business people, is scheduled to meet again Sept. 11.