At Start of New School Year, A Reprieve for Teachers

Aug 26, 2013

Rhode Island teachers can breathe a sigh of relief as they go about the usual business of preparing for a new school year. State officials have announced a delay in the use of student test scores in the teachers’ annual performance ratings.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says public school teachers need more time to understand how scores from the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) will factor into the ratings. A bad performance review could result in termination or loss of certification for a teacher receiving a poor evaluation for several years in a row.

Teachers have opposed the use of student test scores as part of their ratings, arguing that many factors affect student performance and some are not under the teacher’s control.

State education leaders say the goal of using test scores is to determine whether teachers are helping students improve their skills, and they claim teachers will not be penalized if their students score poorly, as long as they make progress.  

Under the plan announced at the end of last week, student test scores will be used this year during teachers’ conversations with evaluators, but will not be included in the final rating until next year. The Providence Journal reports that the state will seek a waiver from the federal government to allow the delay because the new teacher evaluations are part of the state's $75 million Race to the Top program.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island students will be held accountable for their test scores starting this year. Despite protests, the new senior class must achieve a score of “partially proficient” or better on NECAP, or improve on a re-test, to earn a high school diploma.

There are 4,000 students around the state who risk not graduating under the new rules. They will have two chances to re-take the test during their senior year. The students can also submit alternative assessments such as SAT scores or Accuplacer tests to meet the requirement.