Legislative Letter: SB 78, “Teacher Pedagogical Assessment”

SB 78 is proposing a change to the assessment teachers have to pass in order to attain a provisional teaching license. The universities would like to switch from the current paper-and-pencil PRAXIS to a performance-based assessment. I support this change and the renewed focus on making sure our pre-service teachers are well-prepared.

In case contextual information about teacher licensing would be helpful, I’ve attached a guide to current UT requirements. Please consider voting for SB 78. Thank you for your time and efforts.

Legislative Letter: SB 78, “Teacher Pedagogical Assessment”

I am concerned about the proposed changes to Level 1 licensing in SB 78. I appreciate the vision of having an effective teacher in every classroom from day one. However, the reality is that teachers do not start out effective on day one, they can only start out well-prepared. When new teachers are hired, they enter a three-year provisional period–a necessary learning period. Provisional teaching already involves six performance evaluations, two national exams, a portfolio, and working with the mentor. What improvement in quality do we hope to see by increasing the number of new-teacher gateway assessments from nine to ten?

As has been pointed out by committee, there are several professions that require a provisional period and a board exam, such as a doctor. Currently, a doctor would complete a provisional period–a residency–and then take the board exam. That is similar to the path teacher prep candidates follow. SB 78 proposes to switch that order. It would be like a medical student being required to take the board exam before residency, instead of after.

In committee meeting I heard little discussion of current assessments for new teachers. I’ve attached a guide to the current requirements in case such contextual information is helpful. Thank you for your time and efforts.

Legislative Letter 1: SB 204 and grading policy
Legislative Letters: be sure to communicate with policymakers about what you know.

Legislative Letter: Support continued investment in SAGE and SGP

Utah policymakers and stakeholders should support for the SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) and the resulting SGP (student growth percentile) for the following reasons:

  • Student Growth Percentile is the best metric we have in Utah public education. An SGP, and resulting MGP (median growth percentile) is a simple and informative metric. It helps teachers monitor the effectiveness of their own instruction, helps districts monitor effectiveness of schools, teachers, and programs, and helps make comparisons across the state. (Student Growth Percentiles 101 from RAND http://www.rand.org/education/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/student-growth-percentiles.html)
  • We have avoided the pitfalls of PARCC and value-added models. Instead of a nationalized test such as PARCC from Pearson, Utah uses an adaptive assessment built to Utah standards. That allows Utah to work closely with American Institutes for Research to continue tailoring the assessment, which is ideal.
  • Effective implementation takes time and patience. The SGP and the adaptive version of SAGE have not been around long enough to be consistently integrated into public education culture and decision-making. Education administrators need time to integrate this data into our information systems, educate teachers and stakeholders, and develop effective analysis and reporting protocols.
Ideally, we should use SAGE and student growth metrics through an entire 3rd-12th grade cohort (from 2013-2014 to 2021-2022). Consistent data over a long time is necessary for optimizing our public education system and such longitudinal data would be a first.
There are additional ways to support SAGE and SGP beyond the issue of funding.
  • Avoid inconsistent or contradictory policies. I am especially concerned with any legislative attempts to exempt certain public schools or classrooms from evaluation models. We should monitor student growth across the board.
  • Be cautious in attaching incentives to this assessment and metric. Educators have internal incentive to help students succeed, and rewarding or punishing based on metrics may undermine that. SGP is an informative metric, but not a decisive one.
  • Find out the assessment scores and growth metrics for the schools in your area (USOE’s Data Gateway can help). Compare percent proficient on SAGE to the Median Growth Percentile. It’s especially helpful to view the schools in four quadrants:
    • High growth, high proficiency. We’d all like to be here.
    • High growth, low proficiency. The students started and ended with lower proficiency scores, but showed above-average improvement. In these schools, low proficiency scores may be masking high growth.
    • Low growth, high proficiency. The students started and ended with high proficiency scores, but showed below-average growth. In these schools, high proficiency scores may be masking low growth.
    • Low growth, low proficiency. No one wants to be in this quadrant, but this result should spark thoughtful conversation and decision-marking about how to improve.
We have a successful assessment and metric. The SAGE test and SGP metric are meeting our initial expectations. Let’s stick with them. Utah public education has made strides in increasing graduation rates, decreasing achievement gaps, improving early literacy, etc. We have the methods and data to do more given time.
Legislative Letter 1: SB 204 and grading policy
Legislative Letters: be sure to communicate with policymakers about what you know.

Legislative Letter: Using SAGE assessments as part of grading, promotion

In 2014, the Parental Rights in Education bill was passed and was updated in 2015.

The bill covers many areas, but one change between 2014-2015 is problematic for Utah teachers and administrators.

Utah Code Section 53A-1-603.4.f was altered as follows

90     (f) providing that scores on the tests and assessments required under Subsection (2)(a)
91     and Subsection (3) [shallmay not be considered in determining:
92     (i) a student’s academic grade for the appropriate course [and]; or

93     (ii) whether a student [shallmay advance to the next grade level.

The practical translation for educators is this: you can’t use SAGE Summative as part of students’ term 4/final grades.

Legislating that the results of SAGE Summative may not be considered in a student’s grade is an unnecessary intrusion into school and classroom management. In practice, this results in the SAGE Summative not being used as a the summative assessment for the class when it is appropriate to do so. For example, a Biology class could use SAGE Summative as a comprehensive final, as it covers the standards taught. Instead, students may be required to take a separate final exam within 1-2 weeks of taking the SAGE final exam.

As far as grade promotion being determined by standardized assessments, are there any Utah LEAs using them for that purpose? I am not aware of any. It would be more appropriate to say that students’ promotion may not solely be determined by a test, rather than mandating it not be used at all. As student non-promotion decisions are currently handled on a case-by-case basis, the legislature should not seek to limit the information parents and educators can use in reaching a decision.

Especially when there is concern about over-testing, we should be cautious in amending our education policy in ways that may require teachers to develop redundant assessments.

I’ve already emailed these thoughts to my legislators. I encourage you to communicate what you know and think as well.

Legislative Letter 1: SB 204 and grading policy