Teacher evaluation mandate halted, naloxone policy OK’d

Ryan Quinn , Staff Writer

The West Virginia Board of Education, in voice votes with no nays heard, approved this week a policy waiver that again stops the mandate that 15 percent of annual evaluations for math and English language arts teachers be based on their students’ improvement in standardized test scores over last school year.

The state school board also OK’d a policy change that allows schools to stock naloxone, a drug that can save people from overdoses on heroin and other opioids.

Michele Blatt, the state Department of Education’s chief accountability officer, said that since President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December the federal government no longer will require the state to ever move forward with basing 15 percent of evaluations off students’ improvement in end-of-year standardized test scores. The 15 percent requirement was one of the criteria the state was supposed to meet to continue to receive freedom from the mandates of No Child Left Behind, the wide-ranging federal education law that the Every Student Succeeds Act replaced.

The state school board delayed moving forward with the 15 percent requirement for the past two school years, and State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in October that he didn’t support the “separate systems” for evaluating teachers, saying the discrepancy could cause grievances and other issues.

Blatt said the waiver approved this week also newly stops the requirement that 5 percent of teacher evaluations be based on school-wide student improvement in test scores, and said the department will convene teachers, teacher union representatives, principals, lawmakers and other interested parties to help develop a permanent new evaluation policy that wouldn’t require further waivers after it takes effect next school year.

Twenty percent of evaluations this school year now will be based on improvement in “student learning goals” that teachers get to choose and the remaining 80 percent will continue to be based on observations from principals and assistant principals, plus data teachers provide to support what ratings they should receive.

Bad evaluations eventually can lead to firings, but Blatt said teachers usually get about 27 weeks of help in fixing identified issues before dismissal.

Jackson, who last year said he wanted to move forward with basing the 15 percent off standardized tests, said the waiver is “exactly the right move.”

“The longer we kept looking at this, it just seemed less and less fair to me, that we’re really only talking about two sets of teachers, English language arts and math teachers,” Jackson said.

“I never believed we were ever going to do the 15 percent,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association teachers union. “… They knew there would be grievances filed over treating different teachers differently.”

He called the waiver “excellent,” repeating his argument that he doesn’t think a “single, school-wide snapshot on one single day” can adequately show student growth, and saying “teachers are the experts in the classroom and they know how their students are achieving and progressing.”

When asked what he would like to see as far as permanent changes to the evaluation system for next school year, he said teachers, vice principals and principals should be making the suggestions because they’re the ones who deal with the issue. He did say “I’m still not convinced that every teacher needs a full evaluation every year.”

The state school board is moving forward this fall with another delayed policy that gives entire schools A-F grades, largely based on students’ overall scores and increases or decreases in scores on standardized tests. This spring will be the third year West Virginia public school students take Smarter Balanced tests.

In other policy shifts, the naloxone policy change allows schools across the state to stock intranasal naloxone, something that schools in Cabell and Brooke counties already have been allowed to do under policy waivers. Local school boards now can approve policies to allow naloxone to be kept in schools, but the medication must be administered by school nurses.

State school board member Jim Wilson asked what would happen if a school didn’t have a nurse on hand when the naloxone was needed. Becky King, the state education department’s school nurse consultant, said a school would have to call 911, but noted a comment received from a school nurse during the public comment period suggested there should be more nurses in every school.

“The school nurses were really concerned that this could get into a dilemma for a school personnel [member] who’s not a medical professional in trying to make a decision on what drug to give, and what are they dealing with,” King said.

According to the policy document attached to the board’s meeting agenda, the decision to not allow non-nurses to administer the drug in schools was “based on the unknown medical situation of each individual student along with the ability to administer stock epinephrine and stock naloxone during situations with similar physical symptoms.”

King said there currently are about 415 nurses covering more than 700 schools.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.