The purpose of this letter is to express deep concern over the pending
changes to the Georgia teacher evaluation system in the 2012-2013
school year. Although a new teacher evaluation system may be required
under the Race to the Top (RT3) federal funding, any proposed evaluation
system should be based on extensive educational research and fully
evaluated before it is implemented throughout the state.

GREATER is a consortium of Georgia university professors, researchers,
and educational advocates. We join with colleagues in Chicago, IL and New
York State where similar evaluation methods are being implemented [1],
and we caution policymakers and legislators against moving forward with
educational policy changes without high-quality evidentiary research and
support. Specifically,
Georgia’s new evaluation systems, Teacher
Keys and Leader Keys, are based on unproven evaluation models
that carry foreseen detrimental consequences.
Below are GREATER’
s four main research-based concerns: (1) validity, (2) feasibility, (3)
unintended consequences, and (4) timing; and two recommendations: (1)
further pilot the new system and (2) drastically reduce or eliminate the
“student growth” percentage that counts towards teacher and leader

Concern #1: Validity – Educational researchers strongly caution
against teacher evaluation approaches that use Value-added
Models (VAMs).
Value added models (VAMs), which claim to accurately
judge the amount of “value” that an individual teacher adds to students’
knowledge, do not produce accurate ratings of teachers due to being
reliant on student test scores. Further, there is no valid evidence that the
use of standardized test scores produces significant gains in students’
achievement. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Concern #2: Feasibility – The evaluation model is not the most
responsible use of state funds and human resources.
Class sizes
are being increased, teachers furloughed, staff cut, enrichment activities
decreased, and school-years shortened due to lack of school funding;
therefore, spending taxpayer money on an untested, un-validated
instrument is fiscally irresponsible. This evaluation model also promises to
place a heavy burden on the human resource of local school leaders and
teachers and undermine the effective preparation of teachers by colleges
of education. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]

Concern #3: Unintended consequences -- Students and teachers
will be adversely affected by the heavy focus on test scores.

Georgia is already one of many states marred by allegations of cheating on
standardized tests. For instance, one school system implemented a test-
score-focused teacher merit pay system two years ago, which only led to a
national debacle regarding questioned test score gains. Are we now
assuming that linking standardized test scores to teacher and leader
evaluations will make things better? If so, how? Furthermore, the narrowing
of curriculum and negative effects on high need students will likely persist.
[14] [15] [16]  

Concern #4: Timing -- Georgia is not ready to implement the
proposed teacher/leader evaluation model.
The state has not allowed
itself enough time to analyze data and evaluate the outcomes of the 5-
month pilot (January-May 2012) with validity and reliability. [17]

Our Recommendations
Research supports GREATER’s primary recommendation that the state
returns the federal monies related to this project and chooses to “opt out”
of Race to the Top ( RT3) as have other states, however, at a minimum we
encourage: (1) further piloting and evaluating of the new system before
large-scale implementation [18] and (2) drastically reducing (or eliminating)
the percentage of student growth as a measure of teacher or leader
effectiveness [19] [20] [21].

The Teacher and Leader Keys evaluation systems are not the key to
lasting school improvement in Georgia.

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Georgia Researchers, Educators, and Advocates
for Teacher Evaluation Reform

June 25, 2012

An Open Letter of Concern
Regarding Georgia’s Pending Implementation of its New
Teacher/Leader Evaluation System
Governor Nathan Deal, Dr. John D. Barge, Georgia State School
Superintendent, Brooks Coleman, Chair, GA House Education Committee,
Fran Millar, Chair, Senate Education and Youth Committee, Jill C. Fike,
Director, GA State Senate Research Staff and Superintendents of the
following Georgia school systems: Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carroll,
Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Dade, DeKalb, Dougherty, Gainesville,
Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Meriwether, Muscogee, Peach, Pulaski, Rabun,
Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Treutlen, Valdosta and White
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GREATER  (Georgia Researchers, Educators, and
Advocates for Teacher Evaluation Reform) is a
consortium of Georgia university professors,
researchers, and educational advocates.  Over 30
GA Professors wrote an Open Letter of Concern,
expressing concerns over a new teacher evaluation