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ANCHORAGE (AP) — Student test scores will be part of teacher evaluations in Alaska beginning in 2015.
The Alaska State Board of Education approved the controversial change on Friday in response to a public request by Gov. Sean Parnell.
Initially, 20 percent of a teacher’s assessment will be based on their students’ growth and performance using criteria that includes at least one standardized test. The share will grow to 50 percent in 2018.
Most of the 900 written comments submitted to the board came from teachers unhappy with the plan, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Teachers worry about being judged on the results of high-stakes standardized tests that don’t take into account outside-the-classroom factors that influence the performance of their students.
Teachers wrote that their students came to school with fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, cognitive impairments and poor nutrition.
"How can you base 20 percent of my evaluation on that?" wrote one Ketchikan teacher.
A student with a stable family, a decent bedtime, a healthy dinner and a warm coat would outperform one who lacked all those things, another teacher wrote.
Several pointed out that studies show schools in affluent neighborhoods regularly outperform those in poorer neighborhoods. Some asked whether teachers serving poor students or those with extra problems would leave if they thought their evaluations — and livelihoods — would suffer.
"Students are not widgets," wrote an Anchorage teacher. "They do not come to us in standardized form."
During Friday’s meeting, state education commissioner Mike Hanley said that the revised rule allows for teachers to be evaluated on student growth over time rather than performance at one moment in time.
"What this language is meant to do is recognize what a teacher has control over and doesn’t have control over," he said.
Teacher evaluations impact retention and advancement but won’t affect a teacher’s pay, which is governed by union contract bargaining.
Standardized test scores must be a factor on the evaluation of student growth, but it won’t be the only one, said Sondra Meredith, an administrator involved in developing the regulations. Other measures could include anything from a written evaluation to a project.