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Posted November 4, 2013

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U.S. Secretary of Education Says Teacher, Student Success Should be Measured by More than Tests

Arne Duncan comments in a web-based video on teacher evaluations and testing after a bus tour through the Southwest that included a stop in Albuquerque.

Hundreds of teachers and parents attended the final town hall meetings at La Cueva.

There is no federal mandate tying half of a teacher’s evaluation to student achievement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview following his bus tour through the Southwest which included a stop at Albuquerque Public Schools.

“Let’s be clear, that never was a mandate from us. Never has been, never will be,” Duncan said when asked specifically about New Mexico’s requirement that 50 percent of teacher evaluations be tied to student achievement being measured primarily by state-mandated tests.

“What we’ve always said is that we should be looking at multiple measures, whether it’s for teacher evaluations or principal evaluations or looking at districts or schools or ultimately states. You have to look at multiple factors.”

The secretary, in an interview posted to and also on YouTube, said he is less interested in test scores than in how much students improve each year. “Are we getting better? Are graduation rates going up? Are dropout rates going down? We have to look at a whole host of factors including teacher leadership, teacher PD (professional development). What are they doing to contribute to the broader school community?”

Duncan said the federal government has been flexible in working with states that received No Child Left Behind waivers on developing and implementing teacher evaluations. For example, it approved New York City’s plan that ties 20 percent of teacher evaluations to student achievement. APS submitted alternative evaluation plans that would have tied 25 percent and then 30 percent to student achievement and that would have provided constructive feedback and assistance for teachers who were struggling. Both plans were rejected by the state.

Because teachers are understandably concerned and confused about the new teacher evaluations and how testing affects them, APS administrators hosted several town hall meetings to provide more information and answer questions. Hundreds of teachers and parents attended the meetings.

Many teachers and administrators at these meetings have asked that they have more of a voice in the development of  evaluations. Duncan agreed that local input is a critical part of developing such a system.

“It’s always been so be important to me that teachers be listened to, that they be a part of the conversation,” Duncan said. “This shouldn’t be top down. Teachers should be helping to shape these things, that there’s tremendous buy in. Top down doesn’t work well in education or frankly in any other sphere.”

“I was happy to hear Secretary Arne Duncan say what we’ve been saying all along – teacher evaluations should be created at the local level and both teacher and student success should be measured using multiple factors, not just tests,” said APS Superintendent Winston Brooks.

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