The Alliance’s state affiliates, the Texas AFT and the TSTA, will present invited testimony at the House Public Education Committee hearing in Austin on May 14, addressing pressure from state and federal education officials to adopt ill-advised “value-added methodology” (VAM) based on state test scores as a significant factor in teacher evaluation.
Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams informed the U.S. Department of Education on May 2 that Texas would create a state evaluation template requiring 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on the standardized test scores of that individual teacher’s students. Williams’ move was pitched as part of a package of policy changes needed to placate the U.S. Department of Education and win exemption from federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Texas AFT and TSTA have voiced strong opposition, citing extensive research showing that value-added models are unreliable and unfit for such high-stakes use. A number of Houston teachers and the Texas AFT affiliate in Houston ISD meanwhile have filed suit in federal court to stop the misuse of VAM under a local district policy. And one big school district, Cy-Fair ISD, has dropped out of the commissioner’s “pilot” program of the new state evaluation.
The commissioner’s plan threatens to spread the misuse of value-added methodology statewide, but it is far from a done deal. The debate over the future of teacher evaluation in Texas public schools is intensifying. It’s a debate sure to carry into the 2015 legislative session.