Should student test scores be used to evaluate teachers?

“I think people who are using test scores and using them wisely include value-added estimates with other measures of evaluations,” said Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

“If that’s what they are promoting, using a wide range of factors, and having the test score be part of—but not half, or more than half; [instead,] a more minor part—I don’t know why anybody would object.”

The preliminary results of the Gates Foundation research sound fair and reasonable, Hunter said: “We have to improve the assessments. We have to improve the observations, but we have to get the right mix of factors.”

More about the study

Nearly 3,000 teachers from six urban school districts volunteered for the study. The participating districts are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, Dallas Independent School District, Denver Public Schools, Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools, Memphis City Schools, and the New York City Department of Education.

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Researchers choose districts that already had state testing and three supplemental tests in place: Stanford 9 Open-Ended Reading Assessment in grades four through eight; Balanced Assessment in Mathematics in grades four through eight; and the ACT Quality Core series for Algebra I, English 9, and Biology.

Over a  two-year period, researchers are collecting and analyzing the following measures of teacher effectiveness:

  1. Student achievement gains on state assessments;
  2. Supplemental assessments designed to test higher-order conceptual understandings;
  3. Classroom observations;
  4. Teacher reflections on their practice;
  5. Assessments of teachers pedagogical content knowledge;
  6. Student perceptions of classroom instructional environment; and
  7. Teachers perceptions of working conditions and instructional support at their schools.

For classroom observations, the MET Project will observe 20,000 lessons via digital video. So far, 13,000 lessons have been recorded.

Early findings

The first report details the findings from the first year of the study using two measures, specifically in math and language-arts test scores in grades four to eight from five of the six participating school districts and student perception data.

The preliminary report outlines four general findings.

First, in every grade and subject studied, a teacher’s past success in raising student achievement on state tests (that is, his or her value added) is one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to do so again. Teachers who lead students to achievement gains in one year or in one class tend to do so in other years and other classes, the report said.

eSchool News Staff

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