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March 11, 2016

Bill to Reform Teacher Evaluations, Student Testing Clears Another Hurdle

A high profile bill that would change the way teachers are evaluated and students are tested in Georgia cleared the House Education Committee today.  Senate Bill 364 was thoroughly vetted earlier this week by the committee panel. Legislators listened to lengthy public testimony from teachers, parents, concerned individuals, and organization advocates.  The bill's author, Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), also spent several months leading up to the legislative session conferring with educators and parents which he deemed essential to crafting meaningful legislation.

 In its current form, the bill:

  • Lowers the percentage of teacher annual evaluations related to student test scores from 50% to 30%
  • Lowers the percentage of principal annual evaluations related to student test scores from 70% to 40%
  • Requires that in order for a student's test scores to count for a teacher's evaluation, that student must have been in attendance at least 90% of the class time
  • Lowers the number of required state tests
  • Moves End-of-Course testing to the end of the school calendar year rather than the month of April which will eliminate wasted time prior to summer break
  • Changes the focus of K-5 testing directly towards math and english proficiency
This legislation, if passed, would be a welcome relief to both teachers and students in Georgia's K-12 system.

Teachers, as well as others in the education community, have long felt that student test scores factor disproportionately in to their annual evaluations.  The issue has been escalating since No Child Behind Behind was instituted some two decades ago.  If passed, SB364 would provide balance by reducing the weight of test scores on a teacher's performance evaluation, a criteria many believe can be subject to circumstances beyond a teacher's control.  For instance, teachers working in communities with high turnover student populations are in many cases unduly affected.  The legislation would also impact school principals who are affected by weighted test scores in their annual evaluations.

Additionally, many parents and educators have long held that Georgia students are over tested.   By some estimates, student testing days currently command one full month of the academic calendar, which is time away from actual classroom instructions. While all agree testing is important to benchmark learning, many contend that excessive testing is counterproductive to student and teacher success. SB 364 would reduce the number of tests, particularly in early grades.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber supports efforts to improve the teacher evaluation criteria and to adjust student testing schedules.  These reforms may encourage teachers who are discouraged by the current system to remain in the classroom and incentivize new teachers to pursue the vocation.  Ensuring that Georgia has a qualified and committed teacher workforce is in the best interest of our students.