Seattle Public Schools has released new aggregate student growth ratings that will be now used as part of some teachers' evaluations. The ratings reflect how students did on state and district tests from one year to the next and factor in students' poverty levels, learning disabilities and English language proficiencies.
The aggregate ratings show that of the 132 teachers rated in the initial roll-out, 71.2 percent were rated as having students with typical growth on test scores, 19.7 percent received low ratings, and 9.1 percent of teachers had students that averaged high growth.
Using student growth measures to evaluate teacher quality is controversial. Many researchers point to the large number of variables that can affect students' test scores, and the fact that the same teacher can be rated quite differently from one year to the next without apparent explanation.
But Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda said he believes in the district's model. "It gives the evaluator another lens from which to gauge a person's performance," Banda said. "That being said, we need to continue to refine the methods for collecting the student performance data that we use in this evaluation to assure that it is accurate and gives a fair representation of a teacher's performance in this particular area. Bear in mind that student performance data is but one piece of a teacher's overall evaluation."
The ratings will only be issued for teachers of grades 4-8 reading, language arts, or math, and 9th-grade Algebra I teachers. This year's ratings included only teachers at 27 schools that showed low performance on standardized tests, plus two schools that opted in to the new evaluation system early.
Overall, only about 4 percent of teachers in the district received ratings this year. Ratings will be issued district-wide next year.
Teachers who receive high student growth ratings as well as high marks in other areas of their evaluations may become eligible for promotions. Teachers who receive low student growth ratings will get closer oversight by their principals.