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Posted on Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

A new way to measure student growth and teacher performance in Ann Arbor? School board looks at test

By Kyle Feldscher

A new educational assessment program under consideration by the Ann Arbor school board could measure individual teacher growth annually through student achievement, according to district officials.

The school board will hear a first briefing on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s assessment program at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. today.

The association provides a computerized assessment that allows teachers to see individual students’ growth from year to year and could become part of the teacher evaluation process.

Teacher performance is currently evaluated one-on-one by the principal once every three years for tenured teachers, and annually for teachers without tenure. That is expected to change in the coming years to annual evaluations for everyone.

In a memorandum to the school board, interim deputy superintendent for instruction Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley said the new assessment will help the district meet state expectations, such as embedding in the teacher evaluation process clear measurements of student growth.

Current student evaluation methods don't allow for measurements of highly individualized student growth within each school year. The NWEA assessment, a computerized test given multiple times a year, would measure each student's achievement within each school year, allowing teachers to adjust their methods if necessary.

“I believe (the new state expectations) will increase accountability of all those employed in the service of teaching Michigan children,” Dickinson-Kelley said. “I would like to believe more attention will also be paid to eliminating the all-too-predictable achievement gap in our district.”

The NWEA website describes its assessments as adapting to students in real time as the test progresses to give a picture of student achievement. Students are presented with test questions at different levels of difficulty that adjust based on their responses. At the end of a test, students are given a score that represents the instructional level appropriate for that individual student.

The state is requiring all school districts in Michigan to use data to “make informed decisions regarding continuing employment which must translate into satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance,” Dickinson-Kelley wrote. The Michigan Department of Education is going to be required to link student data with teachers, which could provide a first step toward measuring student achievement as a means to implement teacher merit pay.

Dickinson-Kelley recommended that the board approve the purchase of NWEA assessment for grades K-2 and all students at Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School to help gauge the effectiveness of the Mitchell-Scarlett/University of Michigan Partnership.

That purchase would cost the district $62,856 annually, but the district has applied for a grant from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Education Foundation for $47,762.

Dickinson-Kelley also recommended the board “strongly consider” the purchase of NWEA assessments for grades 3-5 in all schools, which will create math measurements necessary to support 8th grade algebra implementation. The purchase would cost the district $49,491 annually.

No additional computers will be needed to implement the NWEA assessment plan in 2011-12, but new server space will be needed. Dickinson-Kelley said the purchase of new servers would be covered by the Child Accounting and Assessment budget, and the cost is estimated at about $31,500.

The program would be implemented across the district in three years, with the purchases for this year as the first stage. Dickinson-Kelley recommended the board approve purchases of NWEA assessments for grades 6-8 next year, which would cost an additional $51,610.50 annually. Implementing the program at the middle school level would require the district to get new computers from Apple Inc.

In the spring of 2013, Dickinson-Kelley recommends the district pilot the Supportive Tool for Assessing Growth in Educational Systems (STAGES) that is being promoted by the Oakland Intermediate School District, which would cost an estimated $50,000.

Ann Arbor Education Association president Brit Satchwell said he and other union officials have worked with the district in exploring the NWEA option on a preliminary basis.

“The part I like about it is that structurally it can be used to measure teacher growth on an individual basis,” he said. “Everything done up to now could only be done on an aggregated level.”

Satchwell said he has spoken with officials in other districts who said their main concern with the NWEA program is younger students not realizing that it is actually a test and not simply a computer game.

In addition, Satchwell said, he's concerned the new test would not measure all subjects.

The state is required to provide districts and schools with set standards of student growth in reading and math that must be met by each teacher, regardless of what subject they teach, which Satchwell pointed out can present problems for teachers who don't specialize in those subjects.

The state is also required to provide districts with measures of proficiency in writing, science, social studies, reading and math, regardless of what subject an instructor teaches, according to Dickinson-Kelley.

“It only does a couple subjects, not all of them and a lot of kids just think it’s a computer game and don’t really take it seriously,” Satchwell said, referring to the NWEA assessment. He called the conversations he’s had with officials from other districts informal and anecdotal.

  • For a PDF version of the board's agenda, including Dickinson-Kelley's memo, click here.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, May 12, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

The facts of this story are not correct. Teachers are required by law to be evaluated annually, not every third year. This was new legislation last year. As far as the scores of South Arbor, charter schools on the whole do NOT score better than public schools, avoid &quot;at-risk&quot; students, and have high teacher turnover rates. A good question is what is the socioeconomic status of the students at South Arbor, compared to other schools in the area. This is an interesting article about the reliability of teachers being judged by test scores: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

What the people who complain about testing never do is propose a good alternative for measuring students' performance and teacher evaluations. These tests should be a valuable tool in helping to find that out. The Meap/MME is pretty much useful in determining that, at least on a timely basis. It is OK as a crude overall measure, but cannot be used to give individual feedback to teachers and students. This group of tests is designed to do that. You have to do some sort of pre-test/post-test to see what the kids have learned, and when I say &quot;test&quot; it can be various formats designed to let students show what they have achieved. You also need to have it be somewhat standardized in order to compare one individual to another or one group/class to another. No, it's not perfect and no it should not be the only thing that counts, but when you have a well-designed instrument that gives data on performance that is quite valuable in designing better instruction, providing individualized and differentiated instruction, and helping teachers to improve their own performance. I agree there should be parent and student input (at least at the secondary school level) as part of an overall teacher evaluation. And performance on tests is not and should not be the only criteria. But you must figure out if the students are at a minimum learning what the teacher is supposed to be teaching. These tests should help greatly with this.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

The MEAP is supposedly explicitly designed to test the students' mastery of the Michigan curriculum content standards at each grade level. How wel it does that is open to discussion, but that is the stated intent. MME, not so much, because the core of that exam is the ACT, which is supposed to determine how well prepared the student is for college or university, and the Michigan-specific questions are not normed with a nationally-representative population the way the other test items are. I agree with you completely that it is awfully hard, almost impossible to use the MEAP for individual teacher feedback because the results are not at all timely. The students aren't even tested on the material until October of the next school year. Adding this set of testing will give the teachers and administrators the immediate feedback they need to be able to improve. Parent input and secondary-level student input to teacher evaluations is also very important. We need to have that as a factor. Too bad they left it compeltely out of the new &quot;Danielson model&quot; of evaluation.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

Sorry I meant the MEAP/MME is &quot;useless&quot; for that, not useful!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 12, 2011 : 3:30 a.m.

Hmm. With all the noise, you'd think Ann Arbor currently doesn't evaluate its teachers, or at best does a &quot;drive by&quot; evaluation. Yet I know teachers are evaluated, and I've heard talk of portfolios and other materials teachers develop during the process. I'd really like to know a lot more about what is already done here, rather than hearing blanket presumptions that nothing is happening at all. Moreover, check out the second half of the last AAEA contract: it all has to do with the work the district and union have been putting in to developing a comprehensive evaluation system, based on the Danielson model. I don't know much about it, but I do know that it aims for a very comprehensive evaluation of teachers over many dimensions. I agree with those who worry that any simple metric will be destructive: after all, we want students to come out of school prepared to be productive members of society and thoughtful voters. Testing math skills, for instance, is only one narrow indicator. It should not become the end in itself.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 9:40 a.m.

Per the article - 1 time per year prior to tenure and 1 time in 3 years for teachers with tenure. This seems to be a step in the direction of more/better evaluation. It seems that Mr Satchwell is on board.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

The performance of a teacher could be evaluated by an administrator or another faculty member who may attend the class and physically witness the teacher's performance. At the end of the class, the students must also be tested on that given subject matter and the scores must be used for academic grading purposes. While the teacher is performing, students must know that they are part of the testing process and evaluation and to emphasize the importance, the student performance must be simultaneously tested.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

Nowhere did I read about getting feedback from the students regarding the teachers. Aren't they the ones who really matter. I can tell you from personal experience, the experience of my children , and speaking with others that the teachers who do the best job of getting the subject matter across to the students have to turn away students. My own kids have been put in classes with the &quot;undesireable&quot; teachers and I've watched their grades go down and their enthusiasm disappear. Ask any counselor who will be honest and they will tell you. Without input from the students you will never improve teaching of any subject matter. Tenure protects those who happen to make it three years from ever having to change or improve. you can always blame it on a bad mix of students or any other excuse. If you actually got feedback from the end users AND were able to remove teachers who were ineffective you might actually reform something. The answer is not more testing, we've been doing that for years and it isn't working. It's scary to be evaluated by a group but it happens to many of us in the private sector and we don't have an employment guarantee, so you better believe we figure out ways to make the end users want to use us. So simple yet so difficult to implement in a one size fits all union environment in which we pay according to levels of education and seniority vs. actaul results.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

Tenure takes four years. Not all students are capable of fairly evaluating their teachers; some are too young to realize when a teacher is being tough to help them improve. A good teacher will ask for feedback from the students and help themselves improve with that feedback. And, truth be known, most investigations into poor teaching begin by comments students make to administrators. It may not be a formal process, but it goes on!


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

So Brit Satchwell is worried that &quot;younger students not realizing that it is actually a test and not simply a computer game. &quot; That sounds almost perfect to me! If the students are just trying to &quot;win the game&quot;, that will minimize any stress and trauma from additional testing, and also eliminate any poor performance of students due to test anxiety or stereotype threat. I think having a certain sort of standardized test run approximately once / quarter, without any disruption of the normal school day schedule would be about right to give suitable feedback to the teachers and the students about how well the lessons are being absorbed, and how the students are doing compared to grade-level standards. In the case of advanced students, this might give some evidence of their achieving &quot;one years' growth per year of instruction&quot; in a way this the MEAP does not. Right now, with the huge focus on meeting the minimum standards, many of the brighter kids attending school in AAPS are ignored or turned into teachers' helpers all the way until they get to high school.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

As a student I detest computerized tests. A computer can not grade a student. Every year I have to take MyAcess (a computerized writing test) and every year I get a bad score--however when an actual TEACHER grades me on a piece of writing, I am always highly praised. I recently found out that to get a high score on MyAccess one has to use words such as &quot;pugnacious&quot; or &quot;fugacious&quot;, even if the word has no correlation to the topic at hand.

Tony Livingston

Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

I agree totally, Rachel. I have seen nonsensical essays written for MI Access using large words but making little sense in the whole. They received high scores. In fact, kids do it for fun just to see what will happen. Keep up the good work and go with the teachers!


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 11:49 a.m.

If you're really taking MI-access, you didn't write these posts . . .


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

Well that is odd, for this year I wrote one of the worst essays of my life and received my highest score. I do not think computers can accurately grade a student's writing; grading organization by use of transition words such as &quot;firstly... secondly..&quot; is ridiculous, for in a well thought out essay paragraphs should naturally flow from one topic to another. In addition, (as you pointed out) having a large vocabulary but not being able to use the word in an appropriate manner is poor writing, however MyAccess fails to account for this.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

Rachel - The MyAccess system is the one giving you the HONEST feedback about your writing skills. The teachers who know you as an individual are praising your effort, or your imagination, not your mastery of the conventions of English. Having a large vocabulary but not being able to deploy it appropriately does not help you to communicate, in either writing or speech.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

Yep. Another test, that'll fix everything.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11 p.m.

I'm not going to weigh in on the pros or cons of additional testing of our students, but I am concerned with Dickinson-Kelley's statement, &quot;That purchase would cost the district $62,856 annually, but the district has applied for a grant from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Education Foundation for $47,762.&quot; I have donated to the AA Schools Education Fund since its inception. Didn't realize that the funds were being spent in this manner.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 8:53 a.m.

AAPS has applied for a grant from AAPSEF to support this program, but no awards have been made. This is one grant application among many the board of AAPSEF will be considering for funding next year. Decisions will be made in July or August and the final decision rests with the board of directors of the Educational Foundation.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

&quot;Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.&quot; Albert Einstein The current approach to education seems to be ignoring these words of wisdom.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

Why does our district always believe that buying an expensive piece of software is going to fix the achievement gap? Software does not replace teaching. Testing does not replace teaching. Add up those numbers again...what exactly are you buying for that money?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

The point many posters are missing is that the NWEA tests periodically so you can actually measure growth (or regression). It gives you DATA which is needed to draw real conclusions. Sometimes we think a certain teacher is great because s/he comes in early, stays late, and is an excellent disciplinarian. Well, how do her students test over time? As someone has already said, if you test them at the beginning of the year and at the end, logic would lead you to believe that MAYBE the teacher had something to do with the results? Traditional evaluation of teachers looks at everything except results. Data Data Data . . .


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

MME results (for high school) are nearly useless to the classroom teacher. In my district we tried for years to get discreet reading skill results (what reading skills, specifically, did our students not possess?). We went to three different curriculum directors, the data expert at the ISD, conferences in Lansing, etc. etc. Couldn't get it. And the writing tests? Zero useful information.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

Brightside - It isn't the state that needs to make that data usable at the classroom level, it's the school districts. The data is reported by individual student ID, and only the school districts record which students are assigned to which classrooms / teachers. The school district could even track the students who stay anywhere in the district from year to year, allowing excellent feedback to the previous years' teacher from the MEAP.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 10:49 p.m.

Data, data, data is what the MEAP and MME provide, for which we are already paying a very hefty sum. If AAPS wanted to do everyone a favor, they would push the state to make that mountain of data usable at the classroom level.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

I agree with those who feel our kids are already taking too many tests. I also agree with those who would like to see parent evaluations play a role - and I say this as a teacher myself. Parents can and should give important information about how their child is doing and how the teacher interacts with the whole family - that is a big part of teaching, too. Although I can see that parent feedback would be less helpful once kids leave elementary school and parents have much less contact with their child's teachers. Maybe once kids are older, there could be a place for student feedback?

Andrew MacKie-Mason

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

The headline in the digest was &quot;Ann Arbor looks at new way to measure student growth, teacher performance.&quot; I was really excited, and then I quickly learned that it's just another idiotic computerized test. As someone who took various tests like this in my years in the AAPS, I can tell you that they're basically pointless. Kids don't care about them because they realize how stupid the tests are, and so they just skim through the exam so that they have extra time in the computer lab to check Facebook. Even if students actually try, the exams are horrible at measuring anything that matters. Don't waste your money, AAPS.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

Why don't you take a look at South Arbor Charter Academy. They use these tests and look how well those students by measuring their MEAP scores compared to Ann Arbor. There is a reason we pull our kids from traditional public schools and place them in Charter schools and this testing is one of them.

Tony Livingston

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

South Arbor Academy MEAP scores don't differ much from AAPS. Compare Dicken and Slauson with it and you will see very similar scores -- mostly in the 90s for at or above proficiency. Consider that AAPS has every type of student including many kids for whom English is a second language, kids in poverty, kids who don't have good attendance, and kids who's parents are not involved in their education. It is pretty impressive to see what is happening in our Ann Arbor public schools. I am sure South Arbor is a nice school, but there are many nice schools.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Hm...I noticed that that kid wears blue and does better on the MEAP. Does wearing blue make you smarter? Are you saying that taking a computerized test is what makes the charter school kids smarter? I doubt it. It's 1) the kids they have, 2) the fact that parents cared enough to move schools, and 3) maybe what the teachers do. Not the software.

Will Warner

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5 p.m.

In industry we have a phrase: "You get what you measure." Whatever management decides is important enough to assign quantitative benchmarks for is what you will get. The organization will operate in whatever way it has to to perform well as measured by the given benchmarks. Of course, it is also true that you don't get what you don't measure. There is no time/energy/money to devote to doing well on things that are not assessed in making a determination of "success." The quantitative sieve captures the dumplings for weighing, but the broth—the great, vague, infinitely-fine, impalpable context—passes through unnoted and unrewarded, and, consequently, neglected. It strikes me that by its very nature there is a lot of broth in teaching, a lot of things difficult to quantify. How would we measure, for example, the degree to which a certain teacher, by the totality of the impression she creates, turns a certain student from a child who hates school into the first person in his family who loves school, when the effects of that turn-around are not measurable until one or two years have passed? Here, it seems to me, the quantitative approach has its limitations. If I were a teacher, I would prefer that my effectiveness be judged by a person, my principle. Subjectivity has its problems, but also its virtues.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 6:11 a.m.

Mike, My wife taught for nearly 40 years, with rare exceptions 1st and 2nd graders. Can you provide some detail on how you perceive 6, 7, and 8 year olds rendering their evaluations?

Will Warner

Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

macjont -- not to worry; my response was not facetious. It is a great word and I rarely see it used and I was saying that anyone who can employ it correctly, as you did, is worth talking to.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:39 a.m.

Don't forget the input from the students regarding their teacher. Every teacher should be evaluated every year by every member of each class they teach.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

Will, more appropriately used in a legal context (in fact, I never heard of the word until I went to law school '72-'75, but saw it repeatedly during 30 years of practice). Webster's definition: Definition of DISPOSITIVE : directed toward or effecting disposition (as of a case) The word is appropriate, however, in other contexts, including current issues in education and teacher evaluation.

Will Warner

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

I'll listen to anyone who properly uses the word &quot;dispositive.&quot;


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 10:09 p.m.

Will, you seem to have a balanced approach to the problem. Current educational policy makers seem to have lost this perspective. Going completely with the subjective approach inherent in principle evaluations would be to ignore historical problems with this approach. A principle's input is essential, but should not be dispositive. The same can be said for strict application of test results. Let's face it: sound evaluation of a teacher is too complex for any one simplistic approach. But so long as we have policy makers fixated on the simple, we will not arrive at the optimum solution.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

When do students actually learn these days? It seems every time you turn around a new test is being introduced, so if you spend all of this time preparing for tests, when do you actually learn new things? I guess you learn a subject if it's on the test, but if it's not on that test I guess you are out of luck. Did I also read this right that this test requires a specific type of computer to actually function? That seems like a pure waste of money.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

I know a number of teachers that would LOVE to have exactly this type of testing set up in their districts. I don't understand how anyone can say if the children are tested at the beginning of the year and then again at the end of the year that the teacher's performance is not going to show up there. Yes, there will be kids that &quot;don't test well.&quot; Yes, there will be kids that don't care and don't complete the test with any effort. Yes, there will be noise in the results. I still believe most kids want to learn, want to do well, and want to get good grades. Overall, good teachers will show improvement in the average competency of their students. The biggest complaint I've heard is social promotion and children not being prepared for the next grade level or not having the needed skills from the previous grade levels. If that really is the problem for teachers, it will be shown very quickly through this type of testing and can be addressed. And quit worrying about gym, art, and any other class where this testing will not be applicable. If kids get the core courses right, everything else will be fine.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

Appears to me that Joe is just using common sense, and using it well. These tests really do measure achievement, but I've actually been in-serviced on them . . .

Andrew MacKie-Mason

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

These exams are pointless, don't measure anything that matters, and kids don't care about them. But sure, why not spend money buying them for the district?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

BroncoJoe, I wish you knew the first thing about education.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH! I feel like Charlie Brown. Why isn't anyone listenting to the experts? More and more there is clear evidence that we are testing kids too much. Now we want to subject children to more testing with part of the purpose for the evaluation of teachers. Tell me how a multiple choice format test can evaluate the most important things that teachers teach the of learning, critical reasoning, the ability to verbalize what has been learned so that others can understand what you know, and (let me repeat) love of learning... So this is one more place where teachers will feel forced to &quot;teach to the test&quot; rather than teach to the children's needs. And...with a huge budget shortfall the District wants to spend more money on something that makes kids miserable. I am more and more in support of the movement on the part of parents to refuse to allow their children to face so many assessments. What do we want for our kids? More testing or more opportunities for children to be in a place where real learning is honored.

Jonny Spirit

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

I know if I were a teacher I would through away all my books and just teach to the test. The kids would learn nothing but what is on that test. Good thinking, who needs other skills. What are you going to do about the band class, have them toot on a horn and if it is louder the second the teacher gets an good job.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

Good thing you're not a teacher.

Ethics Advocate

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

I wasn't aware that tenured teachers weren't reviewed every year. In fairness to students and parents, I think they certainly should be. I am as a tenured U-M faculty member. One reason for that is that we are not unionized, so the annual review affects our pay raise for the following year. But even if we were unionized, I'd still view it as most important.

Thinkin' it Over

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

All Ann Arbor teachers are currently being evaluated every year.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

I support the view stated by 'Brightside' and also share the concerns expressed by 'Townie'. The time has come to evaluate the performance of the Board Members individually and check to see if they have any understanding of the process of Learning and the business of imparting Education. We should not let these Board Members throw away money to purchase these Assessment programs and spend more money to implement them while the students and teachers lose precious time that is available for the actual learning experience.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

State=wide testing to measure a student's progress or a teacher's ability is a total waste of time and money. The only one that benefits is the software company that charges for the test. This is a cost we don't need. My daughter has a non=verbal learning disorder and does not test well at all. How will this help her, her classmates with learning disabilities, or her teacher. Snyder just cut education and now they want to add cost. It just doesn't make sense. Maybe he would be better off measuring the amount of jobs he and the Republicans are &quot;creating&quot; or the amount of time he has left in office if he continues to ransack the education system. Leave the teaching to the teachers know nothing about teaching.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

Could someone please add up all the thousands of dollars this wonderful assessment is going to cost? The numbers just overwhelm my old brain. The board is looking for some outside consultant to do their job on a prickly subject - let's just admit that upfront. How about first assessing our town council and state legislature? They've been the ones making the most mistakes and performing decidedly sub par for the longest time here. Easy, simplistic solutions usually ... aren't.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Teachers do not mind being evaluated and held accountable for their work. However, they work in a SYSTEM, the educational system. Systems have many components that interact in important ways to produce a result. Teachers are only one of the components to this system and should not be judged in isolation of how well or not well the whole system is functioning. What else needs to be taken into account? How about how school boards—are they knowledgeable about all aspects of a school system? Do they know how to make a system function well? Have they provided the best resources (textbooks, lab equipment, classroom supplies) that make for a healthy school system? How about administrators—are they knowledgeable about all aspects of a school system? Has the curriculum director provided a robust curriculum, aligned district-wide, and provided adequate training to teachers? Are principals effective leaders and disciplinarians and motivators and crisis managers and communicators and trouble-shooters? And, of course, how do we factor in what the student and his or her family bring to the system? Are they following teacher recommendations to complete homework, to participate fully in class, to engage in community enrichment, to get adequate sleep and eat a healthy diet? Are students free from worry about domestic problems so they can concentrate on their studies? Free from the distractions of technology and jobs and athletics so they can perform well on tests? Are they even taught how to do well on tests (aside from knowing content)? How do we evaluate all components of the educational system, and hold everyone accountable? When we can do that, then test away and hold teachers responsible for their students' test scores. Until then, recognize this effort to include student achievement in teacher evaluations is just one more way to bash teachers, convince the public they are not worth their salaries, and destroy a national public school system.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:48 a.m.

Great teachers make great students because they create an environment where students want to learn and they will then overcome the &quot;issues&quot; we all use as excuses for why they don't perfom. I'll bet the best teachers somehow overcome the &quot;issues&quot; mentioned in your post. I grew up in a family with two parents that constantly fought, didn't want me to go to college, who drank and smoked and I can remember some of my teachers to this day. I ended up with a masters degree and was the first one in my family to complete college. I know teachers would never want to be evealuated by parents and students for fear &quot;they might be out to get me&quot; but if you're good that won't happen. You'll always get a few but the majority will be in your corner if you're good. I have experience with this (being evaluated) and I was worried but it worked out and I have been sought out in what I do. Let's see some real change, not more tests.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.

It is called failure to make adequate yearly progress. They fire everyone and re-organize the school. I think we would all prefer something less extreme. We need to start somewhere. So where should we start? What should be the first step?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

I taught grade school many years ago. Forget tests. I think that parents and the principal could best rate grade school teachers. The students themselves would be adept at rating high school teachers.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

This is an absolutely terrible idea. The measurement error on these instruments is high, so tracking individual students over time is very &quot;noisy&quot;. Making teacher evaluations based on a series of noisy individual results seems dubious at best. This is yet another government-driven idea with serious downsides (more testing, more teaching to the test) and little -- or no --upside for kids.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

So what's the answer DotDash - The status quo? Continue to discard 16 percent of the children in the state? Help me out here. What would you suggest instead?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

Blerg asks: &quot;will physical education teachers need to have their students run a faster mile?&quot; What happens to the phys ed teacher if the student simply refuses to run the mile and, instead, walks it? What happens to the math teacher if the student simply refuses to do their homework? Any system that evaluates teachers based solely on student performance removes all accountability from the student and their parents (where most of the accountability belongs) and places it on teachers (who cannot supervise their students once those students leave the teacher's classroom). Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

What about the math teacher who tells the student to look up the answer and makes them feel dumb? what about the teacher who tells the kid who asks a question that &quot;we already covered this&quot; and embarasses them in front of the class?, what about the teacher who has a student who is getting good grades on their tests but isn't doing all of the homework and fails them?, What about the sytem that punishes a good student by taking away points on their grade because they are late for class even when studies show that kids should start school later? What about the student of a single parent who doesn't show up for class for two months, intercepts the calls home because he hates his teacher and ends up flunking out?These are all real examples of why students get frustrated and in some cases drop out of school. Students don't get a choice in many cases on who their teachers are and end up with bad teachers. I've seen it and I pay with my tax dollars for it. You've got to have the students and parents do a written evaluation every year for every class they teach. Without great teachers, who get paid well, we wil never fix the system. Testing achievement is not the answer without knowing if the teacher is any good.

Joe Hood

Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

Um, the kid that doesn't run this year probably didn't run last year (zero sum). And unless someone is capable of lighting a fire under them, won't run the following year. They call themselves educators, not teachers. If kids aren't learning anything, it's just teaching. But if that kid gets educated by someone, that someone deserves a reward beyond karma.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

Right! It is only one measure and it can be affected by many variables.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

Don't agree with you often but you are right on here.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

Ypsilanti is not the only district using this test. Saline uses it too. Many districts do. The problem with using a test like this is that not all students test well, even if they are learning and even if they have a great teacher. It, like everything, is trying to be objective in a very subjective field. Nothing will ever compare to good administration, oversight and teacher improvement. One of my children is an average student, with great teachers and has great school experiences, however, her NWEA scores are low because she doesn't do well on computerized tests. Does this reflect poorly upon the teacher? NO, and it shouldn't! Ask my daughter what she thinks, ask me what I think as a parent, observe the teacher, and note that she teaches using centers and such, not the way she taught 30 years ago! It is time to move forward, but we are focusing on the wrong thing. 85% of the teachers at my daughter's school are amazing, get rid of the rest! Don't keep them because of tenure and evaluate them appropriately!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

The good news is that your daughter will do better on computerized tests as she does more of them and relaxes a bit. I agree, it is dangerous to use these results as a formal evaluation tool. They should be used as guides and indicators.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

Awful idea. Just as one can lead a horse to water, but you can not make him drink, teachers can lead learners to knowledge but can not make them think. Its the equivalent making the weatherman's pay dependent upon him producing sunny days.

Dog Guy

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

Not being a teacher, marqueA2, you are not privy to the three step procedure for making a horse drink: 1) Lead horse to water. 2) Shove horse's muzzle into water. 3) Run around back and suck. Truly effective teachers know that teaching is an art.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Wrong! Teachers do much better than weather people. A good teacher will insist H/er students move along and reach or pass grade level. This tool, if used correctly, can help them do that.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

You are sooooo right!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Education would be the ideal profession if students and parents would do the teaching.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Bart Simpson will soon have the perfect weapon of revenge against Ms. Crabapple: just fail that final test and her pay will be cut.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

I remember making designs on my CAT test way back in junior high with the dots on the scantron sheet. I was forced to take the test over with the kids that were absent on the day the test was originally given. I employed much more creativity the second time around. Even if the standardized test would have had an impact on me somehow, I am sure I would have done the same thing

Elizabeth Nelson

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

I wish there was some way of crafting a system that allowed more parent input. I appreciate that it's impossible for a teacher to please everyone, but if you collected evaluations and there was a policy of discarding the couple highest/lowest scores, you could get a reasonable measure of the situation overall. In this town, at least, I feel like the parents have a better clue about what's going on than the principals.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

good teachers will seek that input. great idea!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

I question if the tests will factor in the students who do not perform well despite teacher involvement with the student and parents. Often parents will not even return phone calls from the teacher as the teacher tries to find ways to hep the student. These are significant factors that cannot be overcome and need to identified during the evaluation process.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

Gyre - Sometimes parents work and the time frame that someone is available to take a call is only during working hours. For some folks making a call during the work day is not allowed. Sometimes parents don't care. All I can do in those situations feel sad for the children.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

maybe the parents belong to the same union the teachers do....that has to be the problem. Maybe give the kids tenure. (sarcasm)


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Ugh. So kids will have to take this test several times per year? And, I'm guessing, the teachers will then be spending EVEN MORE time &quot;teaching to the test,&quot; instead of engaging with creative, dynamic curricula. If I wanted my kids in a factory, I'd put them there. I prefer the schools to be decidedly UN-factory-like.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:35 a.m.

a2person - So we should also do away with grades and regular subject tests? When do we get to the point that school is un-factory like?


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

Unfortunately, it's the only way to sort out whether the 7th grade teacher passed along a poorly educated student to a hapless 8th grade teacher. The benchmarking should at least show what a teacher started with, and how far the teacher brought the student along.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:45 a.m.

I don't know if the test will work, and quite honestly, I'm not sure that I actually understand the test itself. However, I am impressed that AAPS is already exploring possibilities to meet the criteria in Snyder's Education Letter. I would love to see a practice test for a couple of subjects so that I could understand how the students will take the exam and what the exam looks like from the student perspective. @Kyle - Would such a practice exam(s) be available online? If so, could a link be provided?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

New? Ypsi has been using this for 3 or 4 years. It can be used very effectively by teachers to help students see where they need to improve and, yes, teachers can also see over time where they need to improve. It's all about interpreting and using data to improve and to measure academic progress.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

I'm not sure using anything Ypsi is doing as a model of success will go over very well right now.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

Testing students measures not just a teacher's ability to impart imformation. It also reflects the attitude of the students themselves and how the parents interact with said children. It fails to look at the whole picture.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Ignatz - 1) So what would you recommend? 2) How would you do performance reviews for teachers? 3) How would you measure student growth? 4) How would you determine that a student needs more help on a topic?

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

You're right that it's not the entire picture. But you're embracing the union mentality that nothing is ever a teacher's fault.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

How is this a fair measure of teachers in all subjects? If an English teacher gives this test to his or her students and they need to read better and faster at the end of the year, will physical education teachers need to have their students run a faster mile or make more free throws at the end of the term? How about art? Will all of those students need to improve their shading? Or music students improve their pitch? How can a program that costs more than a new teacher, when 70 teacher positions are on the chopping block, be appropriate when it measures so few subjects?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Moonmaiden, I did read the article, and I posed questions that were related to the specific quote that said, &quot;the new test would not measure all subjects.&quot; Standardized testing generally covers math, science, reading, etc., and I'm unclear how this is a fair method of evaluation for a second grade teacher and art teacher that work in the same building and teach the same kids. So, your assumption that this is a &quot;useful tool&quot; providing &quot;objective data&quot; doesn't address my concerns about that second grade teacher and those that teach specials.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

It is student performance that really inhibits the public school jobs program.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

Blerg, did you read the article? This really is a useful tool and provides objective data that can help teachers and students improve.