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