Value Added Model (VAM) and Proposed Tiered Licensure: Are SpEd Students and Their Teachers Valued?

“For movement to a Professional Certificate and
maintenance of a Professional Certificate: At least three
assessments must be used in demonstration of a
teacher’s student achievement. Of those three, the Idaho
Reading Indicator [IRI] and the Statewide standards
achievement test must be included as applicable. Student
Learning Objectives, including pre and post assessment
for student learning must be included for non-tested (SBA
IRI) subjects. Other measures shall be chosen at the
district level, selected from the attached list. The majority
of student achievement evaluation shall be based on
student growth” (58).

That’s what the proposed rule change requires for an educator to move from a residency certificate to a professional certificate, or for an educator to maintain a professional certificate and not be stripped of that certification and be placed on a quasi-probationary contingent certificate.

The document then goes on to spell out what one of those “three assessments” that are required could consist of:

● Statewide standards achievement test (e.g. Smarter
Balanced Assessment)
● Student Learning Objectives (includes pre and post
assessments)
● Formative assessments
● Teacher-constructed assessments of student growth
● Pre and Post Tests
● Performance-based assessments
● Idaho Reading Indicator
● PSAT/SAT
● District-adopted assessment
● End of Course exams
● ACT
● Advanced Placement Exams
● International Baccalaureate
● ISAT Science
● Professional-Technical Exams (59).

On a side note, it should be noted that the document linked above frequently includes the acronym SBA; for example, in the sample quoted above, “student learning must be included for non-tested (SBA IRI) subjects.”

This stands for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Idaho’s recently adopted statewide standardized exam assessing the Idaho Core Standards adopted word-for-word from the Common Core State Standards.

Strangely, the Idaho State Dept. of Ed recently said they were no longer using the name “Smarter Balanced Assessment” and were replacing the name with “ISAT 2.0!”  I wrote to the SDE arguing that a shift in the name this late in the transition would cause confusion of the SBAC vs. ISAT.

SDE Chief of Staff Luci Willits wrote me back thanking me for my thoughts, but with an apparent tone of “full steam ahead with the name change!”

Ironically, here is a clear example within days of her response that the confusion I predicted would happen is already occurring because the state doesn’t know what to call the exam and has reverted back to calling it the Smarter Balanced Assessment instead of the “ISAT 2.0.”  I hate to say I told you so, but… I digress.  Back to the point.

So let’s take a look at this concept through a special educator instructor’s viewpoint on how this will impact their certification due to the fact they work with a minority population that is in many ways different from the general education population.

The rule requires that “the Statewide standards achievement test must be included as applicable.”  So, at a minimum, one test will be the Smarter Balanced Assessment (or the “ISAT 2.0” –whatever the name of the week the SDE of education decides on, a little consistency would be nice if they are so adamant about the name change…sorry) that will be included in the teachers evaluation as the teacher is instructing in reading fluency, part of the ELA component of the SBAC.  That’s 1 test out of 3, or 33% of the evaluation concerning student growth.

Second; let’s assume the special educator teaches Juniors.  Well, Idaho law mandates that Juniors take a College Preparedness exam their junior year.  For most kidos, that is the SAT, one of the allowed assessments indicated above.  So, for this particular special educator, the next exam will likely be the SAT.  That’s test number 2 out of 3.  It’s worth another 33% of the eval.

That means these 2 tests will control 66.6% of the special educator’s evaluation.

However, let’s say the focus of the IEP goals in this particular special education resource class is reading fluency.  The instructor monitors this progress using nationally normed AIMSWeb probes, and the students are making tremendous progress.  The instructor uses these “performance-based” probes allowed under the criteria specified in the tiered rule change as the final, third, assessment required by the state, also worth 33%.

So according to this formula, standardized tests (SBAC and the SAT) will form 66% of the instructor’s evaluation.  AimsWeb probes, which actually monitor the curriculum being taught in the classroom, will only account for 33%.

So the results come in.  The AimsWeb progress monitoring of fluency looks great.  In fact, about 80% of students have met or exceeded their goals.

But the standardized tests scores aren’t so good.  See, even though the special education students made tremendous progress in reading fluency, they are still reading many grade levels behind the expectations of “proficiency” for these standardized assessments.  Only 10% of the special education students “passed” these exams.

So here’s the kicker: According to the proposed rules, “For evaluations conducted on or after July 1, 2013, all certificated instructional employees, principals and superintendents must receive an evaluation in which at least thirty-three percent (33%) of the evaluation results are based on multiple objective measures of growth in student achievement” (35).

So, according to the 3 measures above, only 1 of them indicates students are growing, and 2 indicates the students are failing.  Thus, 33% of this teacher’s eval is pretty much shot.

Oh, and for this teacher to ever be able to attain a “Master Teacher Certificate” the expected growth proficiency is raised even higher, 60%.  Again, according to the proposed rules,

For For 3 of 5 years, one of which must be the 4th or 5th
year, must achieve the following:
• Student achievement/growth
• 60 percent of students must meet or exceed growth
targets” (45).

If the SBAC and SAT are 2 out of the 3 tools used to assess student growth, it is very unlikely this teacher will ever be able to attain the Master Teacher Certification.

Does this proposal value special educators and take into account the individualized needs of the population they work with, or does it do the opposite?

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