Using standardized test scores has its share of problems. Using WASL scores, though, presents a whole new set.
[Superintendent Tom] Seigel said Washington Assessment of Student Learning results or other test scores would be just one of many evaluation criteria and would apply only to instructors who teach subject matter on the exam.No wonder teachers are upset. To adopt Seigel's metaphor, using the WASL to evaluate one teacher is like waiting to take your temperature until the fever's gone down.
"Teachers obviously have a major impact on WASL scores," Seigel said. "To suggest you can’t use WASL scores somehow to suggest a teacher is doing a good job or areas they need to improve is like taking tests from a doctor and ignoring the results."
I'll focus on the sophomore year, because that's when the biggest problems arise. First, Bethel's proposed scheme places an unfair burden on English, math, and science teachers. History, P.E., art, and every other subject get a pass--at least, until they get their own WASL.
Second, since students aren't pre-tested on an equivalent test, instead taking an easier test three years before, there's no way to guarantee a fair benchmark. Are teachers evaluated based on how many students pass? Great. Then how much credit should two thirds of sophomore year's instruction count, versus the 8th and 9th grade years?
Are teachers evaluated based on improvement? Great. If Johnny fails in 7th grade, and fails again in 10th, whose fault is it? If Jewel fails in 7th grade, and passes in 10th, who gets the praise? There are too many intervening variables to be sorted out with just two snapshots.
These aren't just whiny teacher complaints; these are real statistical quandaries, which I doubt Seigel and other district officers truly appreciate. If I were teaching in Bethel, I'd walk out, too, if the district refused to back way from a poorly conceived scheme.