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Student test performance may be used to evaluate teachers

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Teachers in Texas could soon be evaluated by how well their students do on standardized tests.

It’s stirring up a controversial debate about whether this could harm students.

A large number of Texas schools were considered failing under the No Child Left Behind Act. It would have forced districts to spend federal money in specific ways and follow strict guidelines to turn schools around.

So instead, the Texas Education Agency sought a waiver. As part of the waiver, the TEA is required to re-asses their public school teacher evaluation.

The current method has 51 measures. Teachers might be graded on how their bulletin board looks or whether their lesson plans are legible. But the TEA says that isn't addressing bigger needs.

The new evaluation would base 80 percent on rubric-based elements like planning, instruction, the learning environment. Then the remaining 20-percent would be based on student growth by state assessments.

A pilot system will be rolled out next school year to provide feedback.

"To provide a true evaluative tool for teachers across the state something they can trust, something that will help them on a day to day basis and they can improve what they do in the classroom. I don't think any teacher in the state wants to fall short of doing their best,” said Gene Acuna with the Texas Education Agency.

But on the other hand, some teacher groups say this new evaluation is unlawful. The Texas chapter of the American Federation of teachers says there is already too much emphasis on standardized tests. They say there are so many other factors that determine whether a student meets or doesn't meet certain skills on a state test.

"The state test is highly correlated to poverty. So why would we set up a system that would create a disincentive for teachers to work with our neediest kids, our kids that are most underserved by punishing those teachers if those student test scores come out low," said Louis Malfaro with Texas AFT.

The state recommends a system. It's not mandatory but 86-percent of districts currently follow that recommendation.

The Texas AFT says if the new method goes through, they will see if this should be challenged in court.

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