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Evaluating Teachers in Special Subjects: Is It Fair to Grade Music and Art Teachers on Math and Reading Scores?

By almost all accounts, Albuquerque, New Mexico, music instructor Nick Prior is an all-star teacher. But earlier this year, when Prior received his teacher evaluation, he was deemed “minimally effective”—earning just 33.25 points out of a possible 100 in the “student achievement” category that made up half of the document.

The reason? The “student achievement” had nothing to do with music. It was based on the state standardized test scores in reading and math of the lowest performing quarter of students in his school. Many of those students had never taken one of his classes. The other half of Prior’s rating was based on a combination of classroom observations, teacher attendance, and student and parent surveys. He scored at or above average in these areas, but not high enough to counterbalance the low student achievement rating.