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Alaska board approves poorly understood teacher evaluation plan

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

On Friday, the Alaska Board of Education voted to approve new teacher evaluation regulations for the state of Alaska as proposed by the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), according to a press release.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported before the vote that the new regulations will eventually mean that 50 percent of Alaska teacher evaluations will be based on the test performance of their students.

In the first draft of the evaluation changes, DEED proposed that only 20 percent of a teacher evaluation be based on their students' performance. But the percentage was later upped after Gov. Sean Parnell in a Nov. 21 letter requested that the proposed 20 be increased to 50 percent.

The board took the increase into consideration and devised a final plan which will go into effect fully by the 2015 academic year.

According to the new plan, 20 percent of a teacher's professional evaluation will be based on the learning data and academic performance of their students. That responsibility will increase by 10 percent annually until 2018 when it will reach 50 percent.

The News-Miner's Dermot Cole points out that the plan rests "on the assumption that 50 percent of student learning is determined by the quality of the teacher"

State education commissioner Mike Hanley told Cole that the state doesn't have a standardized test that directly measures how much a student learns in a class.

The board's new plan requires the state to devise a "comparison of measurement of the student's knowledge, understanding or skill in a subject before being taught by the teacher with a comparable measure made after the student has been taught the subject by the teacher."

Many Alaska teachers testified in front of the Alaska Board of Education on Thursday, saying DEED's proposed system has major weaknesses and needs to be held back for further revision and public comment. (Read more on the teacher testimony.)

Read more about the new regulations that some fear will turn every teacher in Alaska into a failure regardless of their real competence or impact on children's lives.