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Legislative Memo

Memo: NSEA Supports Assembly Bill 57

NSEA supports AB57 to pause the use of student growth in teacher evaluations until 2023 and thanks the Washoe County School District for its introduction.
Assembly Bill 57
Published: 02/18/2021

NSEA believes teacher evaluations should be based on instructional practice, leadership, and professional responsibilities. That is why we have advocated limiting the use of student data in teacher evaluations and agreed on compromise legislation last session to reduce the percentage of a teacher’s evaluation based on this metric from 40 to 15%.

Then we were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. When school buildings were ordered closed, teachers across the state quickly responded, engaging their students in distance learning. This school year, some teachers are back at their school building offering in-person instruction. Others are working in hybrid models, juggling in-person learning with distance learning opportunities. Many others continue their work of creating meaningful education experiences through full distance-learning. As stated by the Washoe County School District, we are in unprecedented times of changing instructional models, illness and exclusions, incomparable assessments, and extensive stress. This is a time for support, flexibility, ability to change course to meet students' basic and educational needs.

AB57 will help provide support and flexibility to Nevada teachers.

Educators want to be held accountable with fair, timely, rigorous, and valid measures. Evaluation structures that depend on student data are not a fair or valid measure, because student growth is dependent on many factors not under a teacher’s control. During COVID-19, these outside factors play an outsized role in student growth, especially in hybrid or distance learning models. For many Nevada students, parent involvement and support, comfort, and access with technology in the home, and individual student interest or disposition are factors that rival teacher practice in contributing to student growth.

Meeting the demands of the teaching profession requires tremendous will, ability, creativity, organization, and preparation. It also requires continuous learning, feedback, and support. To ensure high-quality teaching, it is necessary to have meaningful evaluations that provide a format for constructive assistance. Over the past 10 years, Nevada has worked to build this framework to measure teachers’ instructional practice and leadership as well as professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, Nevada’s schools and teachers have suffered through competing political emphasis on the use of student data, first with the use of test scores as part of an educators’ evaluations and now measuring growth. These competing priorities have compromised the entire accountability system—relegating proven educational practice including student engagement, lesson planning including differential instruction, scaffolding, professional development opportunities, and classroom management.

Member Testimony: Selena La Rue Hatch

As a teacher and a member of WEA and NSEA, I fully support AB 57. In this time of chaos, our teachers need the freedom to focus on our students, and our children need safe, supportive, and innovative learning environments to recover from the trauma and missed opportunities of the last year. To ask teachers to divert their focus from our children toward ineffective, time consuming box checking next year would be education malpractice.

Even in the best of year, SLGs/SLOs have never been an accurate measure of a teacher’s abilities. The results of this evaluation measure are based on factors largely outside of a teacher’s control: student attendance, home life, mental health, stressors, and more. They offer a snapshot of a single moment in the life of a student, rather than the full scope of work a teacher may be doing to help that child succeed. In this crisis especially, any results which come from SLGs will be invalid – we will not have accurate baselines for students, and we cannot control the societal factors which are wreaking havoc on our students in this moment. This next year especially, SLGs will not be an accurate measure of anything.

Rather than this punitive, invalid measure, teachers should be evaluated on the totality of their work in the classroom. Such as: their abilities to foster a culture of respect and learning in a classroom, their depth of content knowledge, and their efforts to get to know their students as individuals and provide for each child’s specific academic needs. All of these and more can be measured by careful observation from administrators. That work is already happening and will continue to happen should this bill pass. This type of feedback is more authentic and more valuable as it allows for conversations with teachers and suggestions for improvement which the teacher can immediately implement.

To say this last year was unprecedented would be an understatement. It was chaotic, unpredictable, and traumatic for our students and our staff. Throughout this school year, teachers have stepped up to the plate to care for the children of our community and keep them learning, even at the cost of our own mental health and wellbeing. This bill can help take something off teacher’s plates so we can focus on what really matters: caring for our students and helping them recover from the trauma of the last year. It will allow us to be creative in our approaches and ambitious in our goal setting. It will give us the space to collaborate with colleagues and the flexibility to adjust our teaching to meet our students needs. Please, listen to our district leaders, listen to educators, and pass AB 57

Member Testimony: Malinda Riemersma 

Last spring, teachers across the state were asked to teach in ways they had never been asked to do before.  They stepped up.  They continued educating their students to the best of their abilities during the shut down.  This fall, many teachers only saw their students face-to-face for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, while most others did not even see their students in person at all.  Teachers went from teaching students for 6 ½ hours a day, to 3 or less.  Everyone agrees three hours is not enough time to teach all of the standards in depth, yet students are expected to take high stakes tests on those standards.  To use that student data on teacher evaluations?  To whom does any of this make sense?

 

There are so many outside factors, even more now with Covid, that affect a student’s performance.  Using student data to evaluate teachers has never been fair nor valid.

 

Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant ready to enjoy a nice breakfast. The waitress is effective in every way she is serving you.  However, the food is horrible.  You pay the bill and leave a 10% tip instead of 20% because of the food - even though the waitress did everything right.  The food itself was out of her control.  It is the same scenario when students don’t perform well and the teacher’s score is deducted.  

 

Teachers are professionals and should be treated as such. Student data has no place in the evaluation, especially during these times.  Please support our teachers by supporting AB57.

 

Member Testimony: Phil Kaiser

Please pass Assembly Bill 57 to suspend Student Learning Goals/Student Learning Objectives for teacher evaluations. The only legitimate use for student assessments is to find out what students know. Then a teacher can re-teach or remediate if necessary, or enrich and move on if students are ready. Using student assessments for teacher evaluations is not legitimate, because the teacher is then at the mercy of elements beyond his/her control.  For example, some students cut class, others attend every day but do not turn in work. Some are motivated, some are not. I have taught high school for 20 years.  Have you ever met a teenager who is moody, or angry, or apathetic?  Some students come to school hungry or depressed. Some students face homes where domestic violence occurs. Students may not be engaged in the subject for many reasons, and it may not at all reflect the expertise of the teacher.

Teachers are observed and evaluated every year, but SLOs/SLGs are not how the evaluations should be done.

 

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