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.

7 Replies to “Should we grade teachers on student performance?”

  1. It seems that continual evaluations based on student performance would lead to teacher burnout. In the area where I used to teach, students and parents alike valued sports and other extra-curricular activities over homework and studies. Some student’s test scores, as a result, aren’t indicative of the teaching.

  2. The focus of education, of course, should be learning in the classroom, which is evaluated as student performance. If having a good teachor or a bad teacher only influences up to 14 percent of student performance, then maybe the wake up call here is that teachers don’t really matter as much as we’ve thought, and school districts shoud take a hard look at the factors responsible for 86 percent or more of student performance.

  3. When are we going to make students accountable for their own learning? Teachers only guide students, but that students really go where they want.

    1. Why do you say this? Yes, to a degree, you are right. Teachers only guide students but they also ensure that these students actually learn. If they aren’t making sure the students have a knowledge base to be successful in the next grade or the next step in life, they should be held accountable.

  4. If you want to see why using tests to evaluate teachers is wrong, read my summary of Rethinking Value-Added Models in Education: Critical Perspective on Tests and Assessment-Based Accountability by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley. If you are looking for a number to judge teachers by try the number of discipline referrals per student. This one is like golf in that low scores are better.

  5. I agree with this opinion piece, but if you are going to drop this line – “Research shows us that little to no correlation between high quality teaching and the appraisals these teachers are given” – then there ought to be links to sources of that research.
    Otherwise, the words are hollow.

  6. Sometimes the student scores can be reflected to the teachers since some teachers have not not done their own responsibilities basing on the saying than children are naturally born geniuses . In some countries like Uganda student failure is alleged to be 75 percent caused by the classroom teacher .

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