How Should Teachers Be Evaluated?

| December 23, 2010 | 6 Comments
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Flickr:Kevin Dooley

Should test scores be used as a way to measure teacher performance? The question these days is not so much “should”–  but “how”?

In Massachusetts, teacher unions are attempting to control their own fate by having a hand in creating the guidelines.

From The Boston Globe:

Many teachers unions around the country, including the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, have opposed efforts to include standardized tests such as the MCAS in firing decisions, arguing that such tests fail to capture the full range of learning experiences and penalize teachers charged with educating students from challenging backgrounds. But the association says that the change is inevitable and that teachers would be better off shaping it.

“We have to be the architects of reform, rather than the subject of it,’’ said Paul Toner, the union’s president. “We have always said we’re not here to protect bad teachers.’’

Massachusetts’ teacher evaluations would be different than other states’ in the way they take into account more than just student test scores.

More aggressive states have sought to make test scores the centerpiece of teacher evaluations, worth as much as 50 percent of a teacher’s grade. The association’s approach would not do that. Instead, it would rate teachers based on other factors, including classroom observation, and then use student achievement measures to validate those judgments. If test scores did not match the rest of a teacher’s evaluation, the teacher would be reassessed.

Teachers with the highest marks would have the opportunity to earn more money by mentoring and performing other special jobs. Those that do poorly would be put on a one-year improvement plan and be dismissed if they fail to improve. (Teachers with less than three years on the job could be dismissed without a one-year plan.)

At a time when the Internet is making evaluations more transparent and public, and with ever-more attention being focused on student achievement, it seems like a smart move for educators to define how they’ll be evaluated.

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  • Anna

    Scores can be one method of assessment, but should not be the only assessment form. Certainly it does provide some reflection on what the students have been taught. Comparing scores from year to year for individual students would help minimize the disparity between those with disadvantaged background and those with multiple outside resources available.

    However, standardized testing has one big flaw and that is that it cannot control for student attitude. Standardized test scores should ALSO be a form of assessment for students. In grammar school, the children generally take the tests seriously. By the time they reach high school however, they realize that the scores on the state testing don’t impact their grades or their acceptance into a given college. If there is a choice between finishing a paper for English (or watching an episode of Psych) and getting a good night’s rest before the CA STAR test – they are probably not going to choose the sleep. Some students have even been known to create “bubble designs” on their score cards rather than actually answer the questions. The only standardized tests that count are the SAT/ACT and the HS exit exam. Maybe instead of having a separate HS exit exam the STAR tests should be used. Solves a number of issues – kids take the test more seriously, one less day of testing taking away from teaching time, and provides a more reliable tool for assessment of the teaching.

  • Sleunig

    There are way too many factors, besides the teacher’s performance (e.i. parental support or lack of the same, sleep, nutrition, etc.), that go into the ultimate score that a student receives on a test. I think it is unfair to give so much weight to students’ achievement on standardized test.

  • Suzie

    Maybe evaluating a teacher based on the students’ achievements on standardized tests is not the best way,but what about when the same students’ overall achievements are higher in some teachers’ class than the other ones? I think the teachers and their unions should come up with a system to evaluate them.Any one who works is being evaluated for his/her performance.Why not teachers?Teachers have a tremendous role of sharing the responsibility of shaping the future of our children.This should not be taken lightly.

  • Telma

    All employees have their performances reviewed regularly. Teachers should be no exception. However, if they happen to choose to work in a low-performing school or district, they should be given extra time to be evaluated. Also, not only the overall performance of the students should be taken into consideration, but the improvement from previous years should be looked at as well. Teaching is an extremely difficult job that takes tremendous amounts of patience and diligence. We have all had excellent teachers who have challenged us to go above and beyond our abilities, and conversely, we have had teachers who were burned out, or not at all invested in their careers. They should all be evaluated so that students have a fighting chance to achieve all that they can.

  • kgc

    Job assessment is a part of any profession, but should be multifactorial. Test scores can account for a small proportion of that for teachers, but certainly should not be the whole basis for evaluation. What about including peer assessment, student assessment, other factors as mentioned by others here?

  • KD

    Teachers should not be held accountable to students test scores alone. I recall getting a lot out of science class but not always doing well on the test. Also, the teacher is not always the one creating the test. A variety of factors should come into play when evaluating teachers.