Should we grade teachers on student performance?

Should teachers be judged on student performance? Is it a fair assessment of their skills as educators?

A recent study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis is the latest in a number of forms of research that cast doubt on whether it is feasible for states to evaluate teachers based partially on student test scores.  Research shows us that little to no correlation between high quality teaching and the appraisals these teachers are given.

We have seen a sharp rise in the number of states that have turned to teacher-evaluation systems based on student test scores. The rapid implementation has been fueled by the Obama administration making the teacher-evaluation system mandatory for states who want to receive the Race to the Top grant money or receive a waiver from the 2002 federal education act, No Child Left Behind.  Already the District of Columbia and thirty-five states have placed student achievement as a significant portion in teacher evaluations.  Only 10 states don’t necessitate student test scores to be factored into teacher evaluations.

Many states also use VAMs, or value-added models, which are algorithms to uncover how much teachers contribute to student learning while keeping constant factors such as demographics in mind.

These teacher-evaluation systems have drummed up controversy and even legal challenges in states like Texas, Tennessee and Florida when educators were assessed using test scores of students they never taught.

Just last month, the American Statistical Association urged states and school districts against VAM systems to make personnel decisions.  Recent studies have found that teachers are responsible for up to 14 percent of a student’s test score, in combination with other factors.

In my opinion, we need to make sure students are exposed to high quality teachers. But is it fair to subject teachers to tough standards based on how students test? I do not believe so, especially in underprivileged areas.  If we continue to scrutinize teachers with these types of stressful evaluations, it will only discourage teachers from taking jobs in urban and minority schools – perhaps where they are needed the very most.

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