Union efforts to scale back Hawaii’s high stakes teacher evaluation system appear to be gaining momentum, with the state Senate Education Committee approving a resolution Monday calling on the Board of Education to abolish the current system and create something new.

The resolution — which cites teacher and principal dissatisfaction with the system, along with recent changes to a federal law that had helped push the Department of Education to create it in the first place — asks the DOE to “discontinue the use of standardized tests in evaluating any public school teacher or administrator.”

The resolution also calls for the Board of Education to amend relevant policies, scrap the use of evaluations linked to teacher pay, and collaborate with the DOE and teachers union to develop a new system.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee center during press conference held on 22 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
HSTA President Corey Rosenlee made changing the Educator Effectiveness System a key part of his campaign for the presidency. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Department of Education believes the resolution is unnecessary, because the Educator Effectiveness System is subject to collective bargaining between the union and the DOE, Barbara Krieg, the DOE’s assistant superintendent of human resources, told the Education Committee on Monday.

The evaluation system is a joint product of the Board of Education, the Department of Education and the teachers union, Krieg said, “and will continue to be so.”

Although the teachers union played a role in negotiating how EES would work, the system has been incredibly unpopular with teachers. So much so that current HSTA leadership campaigned, at least in part, on getting rid of the EES altogether.

“It’s important that teachers feel they are valued and listened too,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said before the hearing on Monday. “And teachers in very large numbers are saying not only that they dislike this, but that it is not improving their teaching.”

The resolution comes just months after the federal No Child Left Behind law was replaced with a new law, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The act did not mandate teacher evaluations, but the EES played a key role key role in Hawaii getting a waiver from the act’s increasingly stringent performance standards. Now that the law is gone, the state no longer needs that waiver — a change that opened the door for new efforts to scrap the unpopular system.

According to a union survey conducted in January, 68 percent of teachers opposed the EES and 82 percent of teachers were against using standardized test scores to grade teachers.

Hawaii started working on the EES in 2010 as part of its Race to the Top grant application. The system was rolled out incrementally, with 2015 being the first year that teacher ratings were linked to pay.

After years of planning and gradual implementation, Hawaii's teacher evaluation system is still the subject of sharp criticism.
After years of planning and gradual implementation, Hawaii’s teacher evaluation system is still the subject of sharp criticism. Department of Education / screenshot

The system was piloted in 81 schools from 2011 to 2013. Although complaints abounded from teachers about a lack of information on the evaluation plans, the DOE conducted numerous stakeholder meetings with teachers and administrators to garner input into the final system.

The EES is based on two categories: teacher practice, and student learning and growth. Within those categories, teachers are judged using classroom observations or portfolios, student surveys, test scores, and Student Learning Objectives or SLOs.

Based on the various components in the evaluation system, teachers can receive one of four ratings: highly effective, effective, marginal, and unsatisfactory.

Nearly all states have started tying student achievement to teacher evaluations — in part because of efforts to get No Child Left Behind waivers. Most states, however, are still pretty early in the process of implementing these new evaluations.

Hawaii is one of very few states to have reached the point where “the rubber is starting to meet the road for positive or negative consequences,” Sandi Jacobs, policy director at the National Council on Teacher Quality, said last year.

The resolution will be heard next by the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Judiciary and Labor.

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