HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Public school teacher evaluations in Hawaii will no longer be directly tied to how their students perform on standardized tests.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Board of Education changed its policy to allow principals to consider those test results in teacher evaluations. They are no longer required to do so.
The decision, supported by the Hawaii Department of Education, is a significant change of course for the state, which had long argued that using standardized test results in teacher evaluations would result in better feedback for educators -- and weed out those teachers whose students weren't progressing year after year.
Hawaii started tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluations in the 2013-14 school year. The new policy will take effect in the coming school year.
Hawaii's move to incorporate student test scores in teacher evaluations followed a national push to strengthen how teachers are rated, and consider student progress as measured by standardized tests in those ratings.
Teachers, though, had countered that tying student test results to performance -- and pay -- was flawed, in part because teachers with large numbers of high-need students would face a higher bar to see their students make progress.
Teachers praised Tuesday's change to teacher evaluations, saying it will free them to teach more than just math and English, the subjects of the yearly tests.
"We have 1,600 openings it looks like in the fall, and part of that has to do with teacher evaluations," said Amy Perruso, a social studies teacher at Mililani High School.
"We are hoping that a change in the evaluation system will have a positive impact on teachers and we will be able to retain more and even recruit highly professional teachers."
In the 2014-15 school year, 35 percent of Hawaii's 12,350 teachers were rated "highly effective." Some 62 percent were effective, and less than 1 percent were rated marginal or unsatisfactory.
The BOE vote Tuesday also makes other tweaks to teacher evaluations that give principals greater flexibility in how teachers are rated.
The changes come as Hawaii seeks to better understand how a new federal law aimed at reforming public schools -- and that gives states a greater role in holding schools accountable -- will play out in the islands.