The tool’s debut comes as Michigan prepares to give greater weight to student performance and growth when conducting annual teacher reviews.
Munetrix, a Michigan-based government data company, debuted a new educator evaluator tool this week that aims to ease the process of crunching student performance growth data and incorporating it into teacher performance reviews.
The Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool can calculate and blend information from different data sets that provide Student Growth Percentiles. The tool, for example, can combine student assessment data from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), Michigan Student Test of Education Process (M-STEP), and Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading (STAR) for each student in a teacher's class, analyze it and give an overall performance assessment that can then be included in a teacher evalution.
The Educator Evaluator app comes at a particularly interesting time for school administrators. In Michigan, student growth data will account for 40 percent of a teacher's annual performance review beginning in the fall under Michigan Public Act 173 — up from 25 percent during the 2015-16 academic year.
Yet, as the stakes for Michigan educators who want to comply with PA 173 are raised, the number of states requiring objective evidence of student growth when doing teacher evaluations is declining. This year, for example, 39 states had such requirements, down from a peak of 43 states in 2015, Eric Duncan, a spokesman for the National Council on Teacher Quality, told Government Technology.
Of the states that require objective evidence of student growth, only 17 states give this data a weighting of 33 percent or more in teacher evaluations, Duncan added.
The Munetrix Educator Evaluator was initially created to address the challenges of complying with Michigan’s PA 173’s requirements for incorporating objective evidence of student growth in teacher evaluations, but other districts across the nation could use the app, said Munetrix President Bob Kittle.
“Everybody can ultimately benefit, no matter what state they are in,” Kittle said. “Each state will have some unique requirements, but 98 percent of the Michigan version (of the app) will be universal.”
The app currently runs on top of the Munetrix platform and an additional charge beyond the platform subscription is assessed, Kittle says. However, in the near future, Munetrix plans to release a standalone version of the app, for which a subscription to the platform is not necessary.
When using the educator evaluator app, users would log onto a browser and access the information. Kittle says the interface is designed so users can easily import the test data from STAR, M-STEP, and NWEA and with a few mouse clicks analyze the data based on school, teacher or student.
He added Munetrix’s tool is easier to use than the Michigan Department of Education’s Student Growth Percentiles Educator Evaluation Calculator Tool, which requires school administrators to cleanse the data once it is downloaded and copy-paste it into a handful of tabs in an Excel spreadsheet template. He noted his app will automatically cleanse the data and allow users to sort the information without having to specify where the information needs to be entered.
Munetrix beta tested its Educator Evaluator tool with six school districts and the Brandon School District in Ortonville, Mich., was one of the beta testers.
With the Munetrix app, the data could be imported into the system in batches, rather than input the student roster information and test data on an individual basis per teacher, according to Kristy Spann, executive director of educational services for the Brandon School District.
“I would say in a very best-case scenario, if you had all your roster data at hand, it could save a 10- to-15-fold increase in time, “ Spann said, in comparing the Munetrix app performance with not using the technology.
Spann has also tried the Michigan Department of Education educator evaluation tool and noted it is more difficult to input information into the spreadsheet and the spreadsheet is designed based on certain assumptions, which then require tweaking by the school administrator.
Currently, organizations that want to use the educator evaluator app also need to have a subscription to the Munetrix platform. The cost for the platform varies depending on the number of users and other factors, Kittle said.
In addition to the platform costs, there is an additional fee for the Munetrix Educator Evaluator app, which is one of 13 apps Munetrix offers on its platform, Kittle said.
While the price for the app varies depending on the user package school districts select, Kittle says he is hoping to keep the price limited to approximately an additional $100 per user a month beyond the cost of the platform.
For Munetrix, which is a GovTech 100 company, is leveraging some of the technology it had already developed for municipal governments in its educator evaluator tool, Kittle says.
“We learned from one side of the house and incorporated it into the school side,” Kittle said, pointing to its processes for cleansing data, normalizing it and analyzing it.