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Alaska governor wants student performance to play bigger role in teacher evaluations

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 11:43 pm | Updated: 12:07 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell recently announced he wants student performance to play a larger role in teacher evaluations.

The state Board of Education is considering a new rule that would base 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student performance. In a letter to the board last week, Parnell asked to bump that figure up to 50 percent.

The new performance-based teacher evaluations are part of greater effort to get a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Teacher evaluations are not tied to teacher pay.

In a letter dated Nov. 21, Parnell said Alaska should look at how other states have handled performance evaluations. Some states place greater emphasis on student performance than the proposed Alaska rule, he said.

“Nearly 20 states in the nation now weight at least 33 percent, and many 50 percent, of a teacher’s performance evaluation based on student academic progress,” he said. “I would like Alaska to lead in this, not bring up the rear with 20 percent of an evaluation focused on student improvement.”

However, the issue of performance-based evaluations and Parnell’s request to weigh them heavily in a teacher’s review hasn’t got a glowing response from teacher unions.

Fairbanks Education Association President Tammy Smith said the union supports the 20 percent standard that has been discussed in the months-long drafting. She said the 50 percent level could overemphasize testing and distract from other important areas of teacher performance.

“We believe there is no requirement for a 50 percent,” she said. “You have students who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and many types of conditions.”

She also said she’s worried that the new evaluations will amount to an unfunded mandate for the school districts.

“That should be left up to the school board to decide, and we strongly support their efforts,” she said. “But we’re very concerned that there’s no fiscal note. This will be an unfunded liability that it will require a big time investment from the districts.”

Link to governor’s letter: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/resources_files/board112112.pdf

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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