Teacher Evaluation Bill Up for Committee Vote

Grading TeachersReforming Pennsylvania’s teacher evaluation system is an important leg of Gov. Tom Corbett’s education reform agenda, along with school vouchers, charter school reform, and expanding the successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.

At 9 a.m. tomorrow, the House Education Committee will consider House Bill 1980, introduced by Rep. Ryan Aument, and how members vote will be a significant bellwether for other school choice reforms.  To recap, here are some need-to-know facts on teacher evaluations:

  • Reform is sorely needed. A whopping 99.4 percent of Pennsylvania’s public school teachers were rated satisfactory, when student performance is mediocre (only 40 percent of 8th-graders, for example, can read or write at grade-level.
    • Rep. Aument’s bill would increase rating categories from two (satisfactory and unsatisfactory) to four (distinguished, proficient, needs improvement and failing).
    • Student achievement will count for half of an educator’s overall score (achievement will include growth data, not just test scores).  Other measures, such as classroom observation and teacher preparation, will make up the remainder.
    • Listen to Rep. Aument discussing his legislation on THE BOX, and read more about his proposal here.
  • More rigorous teacher evaluations help teachers—not just students. The latest evidence comes from Washington, D.C., where a study from Democrats for Education Reform showed that after three years of its teacher evaluation system, more than half of teachers rated “minimally effective” improved within a year.
  • Comprehensive teacher evaluations in Pennsylvania are already underway. HB 1980 is based on a Pennsylvania Department of Education pilot teacher evaluation program begun in 2010-11, and would make such teacher assessments statewide and mandatory.  Currently, 104 school districts have volunteered for the pilot program.
  • Even modestly improving teacher quality can have a huge impact on whether students succeed in life. Economist Eric Hanushek notes: “By replacing the bottom 5-10 percent of teachers with the average teacher found in today’s classrooms, research indicates that the achievement of U.S. students would rise from below the developed country average to near the top if not at the top.”

Better teacher evaluations reward good teachers, help underachieving ones improve, and weed out the ones who just need to find another line of work. The House Education Committee should pass Rep. Aument’s bill—for the sake of teachers and students.