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Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 | Thanks for the article on test scores not being in principals’ evaluations. Here are some thoughts from the perspective of a teacher, former business manager, and parent.

I’ve been a classroom teacher for nine years after retiring from a major California company where I was deeply involved in the analysis of results and creation of improvement plans. In my career, I was evaluated under good plans, poor plans, and fake plans. In all of those cases, however, I had the ability to influence the outcome of my work.

The current Federal and state systems do a poor job of measuring the effectiveness of staff or administrators. If I were measured on the improvement year-over-year of my students, I’d be happy to be evaluated on the progress of struggling students. Just change the way California processes tests so that the student is held accountable for the results. If students must pass the test, or show significant improvement over the previous year’s result, in order to pass a class, scores will get better. Today, students in California have no meaningful incentive to do their best.

The present system takes months to return scores to the classroom level. I have met teachers in Texas who were analyzing their scores three weeks after testing. Information on last May’s tests is available to me in October! If the AP and SAT folks can turn around the volume of tests they administer, someone should be able to do it with our standards tests.

What would timely results do? First, give me time to include performance as part of the course grade. Second, give me time to modify curriculum in next year’s course so that weak spots are strengthened.

Any evaluation process must allow for what teachers and administrators can influence. Measurement of improvement is more valid than the statistically questionable target system in place today. For example, the use of year-by-year targets instead of a rolling three year average creates penalties and sanctions and unnecessary administrative overhead where none is needed.

I’m glad we have someone looking at education in San Diego.

Thomas Sweet is a Math & IED Teacher and Track & Field Coach at Patrick Henry High School.

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