Evaluating teachers: What about special ed?

Evaluating teachers based on their students’ performance is tricky. It’s even harder to evaluate special education teachers whose students may have a variety of disabilities, notes AP.

To get Race to the Top funds, states must boost the number of effective teachers in special education and other hard-to-staff specialties. Federal officials want to link teacher effectiveness to whether students reach “acceptable rates” of academic growth. What does that mean? States are trying to figure it out.

In Florida, the process has already begun, with a committee examining a broad range of conditions, from dyslexia to traumatic brain injuries, and analyzing the effect on test scores.

. . . the committee decided students with similar disabilities who can take Florida’s statewide math and reading assessment should be compared to one another. The student’s prior academic achievement will also be factored in. Teachers will then be evaluated based on how much above or below the average their students performed.

So every autistic child is just like every other autistic child . . .

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  1. Florida’s method is unsound.

    What is appropriate academic growth for one student, may not be even possible for another. And usually, it’s the students committee that sorts it out.

    Thus, no matter what a teacher does, the student will show low growth. And we expect to rate a teacher on this basis?

    I predict large numbers of teachers switching career paths, for their own sake. And given the different models used; inclusion, content mastery, resource, self contained classes, how can you possibly sort out effectiveness?

    And after attending many of these meetings, I can tell you that students are often misplaced at parents or administrators insistence.

    Evaluating both SPED students and teachers take more than this. Why do you think we do individual testing every 3 years?

  2. It’s not at all clear whether you’re advocating for a sound means of determining teacher efficacy or, by ignoring the idea of trying to determine teacher efficacy entirely, trying to remove the idea from consideration.

    If Florida’s method is unsound then it’s a better method that ought to replace it, not no method at all which is the current situation. The implication of not determining teaching skill is that the skill is not worth measuring.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Or we could do what we do now: say you’re effective if you have a Masters in Special Education and not effective if you don’t.

    This has two advantages: One, no one has to try to overcome the problems Mike43 describes. Two, it provides money and jobs for the post-secondary part of our business, the teachers, administrators, etc. at the ed schools.

  4. I am just throwing rocks at this point. I am not sure how exactly you can do a teacher effectiveness model with respect to special education.

    We measure student growth in various ways; state testing, local testing, etc. Our resource teachers are held within the our model. And that’s pretty easy, since those teachers have a regular class structure and the same requirements as a regular ed teacher.

    My concern is for the inclusion teachers, who mostly don’t even grade the students in their caseload. My district’s model takes account for them, but the Florida model appears to be setting goals for the students. That may also violate federal law.

    In our district, we look at student improvement. But it’s not measured against a set goal. It’s measured student by student, year by year. That seems to me to be the most logical method of measuring progress.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Why can’t yearly progress be measured for SE, same as for regular classrooms? MAP tests (measure of academic performance) are online and adjust for student response (get easier or more difficult). Why not give them a MAP at the beginning and end of each year and measure progress. One year of measure won’t provide enough information but if it’s consistently measured year after year?

      Yes, they can be measured; we just need the right tools.

  5. Special Education, IEDs, etc. It’s all a case of “The road to hell is paved with good intentions…”

    Special Ed is what has destroyed K-12 education in this country. When 75% of a K-12 school district’s funding is devoted to just 15% of its students – and the lowest performing ones at that – then something is wrong. (Not that kids who need help shouldn’t get it as much as reasonably possible. But sheesh.)