TOPEKA — Several lawmakers on the House Committee on Education on Thursday blasted a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback to post teacher evaluations on public websites, saying it would create too much tension between teachers, parents and students.
Rep. Jana Goodman, R-Leavenworth, called the proposal a veiled attempt to blame all student performance outcomes on teachers.
“Most schools know who the good teachers are,” she said. “This is too much.”
The proposal would rate all educators’ performance as highly effective, effective, progressing or ineffective. That formula would be based 50 percent on growth in student achievement, 40 percent on input from supervisors, peers, parents and students and 10 percent on contributions by the employee to the profession. Exact criteria would be defined by the State Board of Education.
It would prohibit any student from being taught by educators rated ineffective two years in a row. And it would let districts fire teachers designated as ineffective two years in a row if that teacher had had a chance to get professional development to address their shortcomings.
Jon Hummell, director of operations in the governor’s office, defended the plan, saying it identifies and rewards the best teachers and encourages more engagement between teachers, parents and students.
Hummell acknowledged that online evaluations would put pressure on teachers with poor marks. But he questioned whether that’s a bad thing. He said research suggests it’s important to identify teacher effectiveness and that federal regulations may impose such public evaluations in the future.
Larry Landwehr, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said districts can already identify and fire bad teachers. And he said the online evaluations sound like a bad idea because they take away the privacy of evaluations.
Landwehr said he hasn’t seen all the details of the proposal, but he said parents could bring in biases into evaluations, depending on how well their children like the topic they are being taught and other aspects of teacher-student interaction that’s not directly related to how well the educator teaches.
"The job should be left to those that have the expertise in it," he said.
Committee Chairman Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, said he opposes the idea.
“I think it would create more problems than it solves,” he said after the presentation.
Others on the committee put it in harsher terms.
Rep. Judith Loganbill, D-Wichita, said the proposal would eliminate existing evaluations and prevent teachers from having any input on their own evaluations. She said the proposal looks like it applies to profit models used by businesses and that principals and superintendents may hedge toward more favorable evaluations knowing the material will be viewed publicly.
Loganbill said educators at some schools, such as Wichita’s Levy Special Education Center, which serves students with disabilities, would face unfavorable ratings every year since student achievement is unlikely to grow much year to year. And she suggested that such online evaluations could create a system like Atlanta’s, where teachers say they felt pressured to tamper with test results to show achievement.
Rep. Ronald Ryckman, R-Meade, said it should be up to local school boards and administrators to fire bad teachers — not an online symposium.
“I just think that would be a disaster,” he said of the online evaluation proposal.