another gap

Minority students less likely to have teachers rated effective, data show

An overwhelming majority of Colorado teachers and principals received the state’s two highest evaluation ratings during the 2014-15 school year, according to data released Monday.

But by at least one measure, the state’s most at-risk students were less likely to have teachers or principals with those high marks — another example of a disparity in schools based on factors including students’ race and family income.

About 88 percent of teachers and 83 percent of principals received one of the state’s top two ratings.

Colorado schools with the highest concentration of minority students had fewer teachers and principals rated as effective or higher compared to schools with the smallest minority populations.

Eighty-two percent of teachers and 74 percent of principals in schools with the highest minority populations were rated effective. Meanwhile, in schools with the smallest minority population, 91 percent of teachers and 87 percent of principals were rated effective.

Monday’s release comes nearly seven years after state lawmakers adopted Colorado’s landmark teacher and principal evaluation system with bipartisan support. The 2014-15 school year was the first year it was fully in effect.

Colorado’s evaluation system became a national model to many education reform advocates because it links a teacher’s rating to student performance. But the system has been under constant attack from teachers unions and some Democratic lawmakers. Among other criticisms, opponents believe teachers have too little control over how a student performs on standardized tests.

The evaluation system requires that teachers and principals receive an annual review. The ratings measure factors such as how well teachers know their content areas and how they manage their classrooms, based on observation.

The most controversial measure is student growth data. Student growth measures how much a student learns year-over-year compared to their academic peers. While each school district gets to decide how to measure growth, the law suggests using results from the state’s annual math and English tests.

School districts were required to measure and report student growth during the 2014-15 school year, but the results did not have to factor into a teacher’s overall rating. That led to some confusion, and some districts did not report growth, state officials said.

Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, all evaluations must include student growth data.

Because school districts have great discretion over how teacher and principal evaluations are carried out, the state cautioned against comparing districts’ results.

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.


Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change


Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.