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TESOL Supports Additional Flexibility for State Teacher Evaluation Systems

by User Not Found | 09/11/2014
TESOL Executive Director, Rosa Aronson responds to U.S. Department of Education's new flexibility on assessment.
Statement from Executive Director Rosa Aronson, PhD, CAE

On 21 August 2014, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced additional flexibility for states regarding the use of student test scores on state assessments in teacher evaluation systems. Responding to feedback received from teachers and teacher organizations, Sec. Duncan stated that “testing should never be the main focus of our schools,” and that in many schools across the country “the sheer quantity of testing – and test prep – has become an issue.” Recognizing that states will transition to the new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2014-15 academic year, the Department of Education has announced that states can request a delay of up to two years for student assessment scores to be used as part of teacher evaluation systems.

TESOL International Association supports this announcement and appreciates the efforts of Sec. Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education to listen and respond to the concerns of teachers on this issue. The implementation of the new math and English language arts assessments this academic year and the new English-language proficiency assessments due for implementation during the 2015-16 academic year, represent a period of significant transition for education in the United States. As many teachers and schools begin to learn about and implement the CCSS, and as the number of English learners continues to grow, it only makes sense to allow states to have time before they begin using student test scores in teacher evaluation systems.

Unfortunately, ESL educators and others who work with ELs have been largely absent from the planning, development, and implementation of the CCSS. As a result, research from Education Week has shown that educators working with English learners are woefully underprepared when it comes teaching the CCSS. In TESOL’s own conversations with ESL educators and researchers, the preparation of ESL educators needs to change to better equip them to work with the new standards. With so many factors impacting the field of ESL today, a temporary moratorium is clearly the right move.

Beyond the temporary moratorium, further work and research is needed on the role that student test scores should play – if any – in teacher evaluation plans. Since the role of the ESL educator is changing in this new era, additional research on effective practices for teacher evaluation is needed, and more attention needs to be given to building teacher capacity to meet the needs of the growing population of ELs.

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