Revising teacher evaluations in Manassas City to align with recommended Virginia standards could mean basing 40 percent of the evaluations on student academic process.
But the issue of placing heavy emphasis on academic progress is raising concerns on the Manassas City School Board.
A committee formed to address the revisions had agreed on using the state standard, but the Manssas City School Board questioned this idea, saying that almost half of the evaluation would be based on academic achievement (i.e. tests), which may not apply to all teachers.
Student achievement, such as scores on state tests, was generally not part of the teacher performance review. Officials at the state department of education imposed the 40 percent achievement standard as part of their request for a waiver from the onerous directives of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Under the new state guidelines, schools must rate teachers on each of seven standards: professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of learning, learning environment, professionalism and student academic progress, school officials said.
The state is recommending that 40 percent of the evaluations be based on the last standard of academic progress, while the remaining standards would represent 10 percent of the evaluations.
"How do you rate teachers who don't have Standards of Learning (SOL) tests," Manassas School Board Vice Chair Art Bushnell said.
Bushnell said he was concerned about the special education teacher, among others, whose students grow and make progress throughout the year, but don't pass the the SOL tests.
"We want to reward that growth and progress and keep the good teacher," Bushnell said.
While the majority of neighboring school divisions are using or , the Manassas School Board questioned whether it is fair, and how the evaluation would work.
There's still a lot of unanswered questions about the state's recommended new strategy, despite the fact it was piloted in some schools last year, Bushnell said.
The new strategy, which represents a significant shift in how teachers are judged, is part of a new set of requirements mandated by state education officials.
"They're asking us to occupy a house while it's under construction," said School Board Member Kermit Dance said.
While the board recognizes the possibility that the 40 percent approach may someday be mandated by the state, they were concerned because they intended to be locked into whatever plan they chose for three years.
"The fact that other school systems are doing something holds no water with me," said board member Tim Demeria.
While the state standards are mandated, currently it is up to the school systems to put in place the level of the mandate they think will work best for their system.
Ultimately, the board voted 5-2 in favor of using a 25 percent standard instead of 40.
Bushnell said this means that academic achievement (i.e. test results) is twice as important as the rest of the categories for the teacher evaluations, but not four times as important as the state is recommending.
He believes that the 40 percent standard is putting to much leverage in one (testing) bucket.