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Editorial: New classwork + tests = no fill-in-the-blank evals

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The classes of 2013 prepared for and took Standards Based Assessment tests. The classes of 2014 are preparing for new Common Core Standards but will take a modified SBA that includes, but does not count, Common Core test questions for grading. And the classes of 2015 and beyond will prepare for Common Core and take its Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam.

Using that evolving rubric, results will either be:

A. seamless, as the state Public Education Department predicts, or

B. a train wreck, as teachers unions worry.

PED maintains that because Common Core is more challenging, students will do well on the modified SBA, be prepared for the full PARCC and thus their teachers will do well on their evaluations, which are based in part on three years of student test-score improvement.

That’s great if things shake out the PED way, but considering the concern that has accompanied new teacher evaluations, which were implemented administratively because the Legislature has refused to approve them, there had better be a Plan B. Make that a B as in be cautious about how you reward/penalize teachers using a literally untested grading system.

State education chief Hanna Skandera says PED will ensure a smooth test transition. But even the PARCC Inc. spokesman says comparing results of his test and SBA, which will be necessary for 2015 teacher evals, is “hard. It’s complex. But it’s possible.”

Not exactly comforting.

Linking teacher evaluations to student improvement is an essential step in improving public education in a state where 99 percent of teachers are rated as satisfactory but around half of the kids can’t read or do math at grade level. Yet to be fair, PED should consider the possibility of a less-than-best-case scenario and ensure it delivers on its assurance that students will do fine on its 2014 modified SBA – which started this week – before it fills in the bubbles of teacher grades.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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