Should teachers be evaluated by student test scores?

Should teachers be evaluated by students’ standardized test scores? While that idea seems to make intuitive sense, my newest resource on value-added measures (VAM) highlights the rating volatility, legal issues, and other concerns that have led our most trusted assessment experts and educational research/policy organizations to vehemently advocate against evaluating teachers with student test scores:

As we make policy, our teachers deserve our thoughtful, informed consideration. I hope this resource is helpful to you.

8 Responses to “Should teachers be evaluated by student test scores?”

  1. The way this question is framed implies to many people a simplistic evaluation based on a “good scores=good teacher” premise, which is easy (and appropriate) to reject.

    However, if it is reframed to ask if teachers’ evaluations should have any relationship with students’ test scores, then the conversation can be broadened in important ways. For example, if students in one teacher’s classes show consistent year-over-year increases in test scores, and students in another teacher’s classes do not, can we honestly say that teacher quality is not a factor?

    • In a word: yes. The “reform” movement wants to evaluate teachers in non-assessed areas. Does the French teacher influence the students’ progress in Mathematics? His or her evaluation will depend on it. A teacher’s schedule will also make a huge impact. Will lower level or learning support students make the same advances as honors? English language learners? What about class sizes? Will you fail first and second year teachers who are still learning how to deal with their students, or give them a chance to develop classroom management and instructional skills? There are so many problems with the Value Added Model beyond the fact that Teacher Effectiveness is only about 15% of the different in student scores.

    • There’s no reason that students’ test scores can’t be part of holistic conversations with teachers about teaching success right now. It’s when we try to make mechanistic formulas that apply regardless of context and setting – which is the idea behind VAM – that we get into trouble.

      Using the example you give here, we can indeed conceive of multiple situations where teacher quality is not the issue (e.g., home poverty effects outweigh teacher effects; lack of language fluency outweighs teacher effects). Overcoming factors that work against quality teaching is the responsibility of larger systems: schools, neighborhoods, cities, states, etc. Instead, many policymakers are trying to pin all of the blame on teachers when they’re only responsible for about 10% of student learning.

  2. This is a very important question. Thanks for writing this!

    As a young teacher, I feel that teachers’ effectiveness must be measured somehow.

    There are some very incompetent teachers out there, and they can potentially ruin the lives of their students.

    It teachers are not doing their job out of laziness, or are not successful due to lack of talent, they should be let go.

    Students need good teachers. Our society needs good teachers.

    That being said, I don’t wish for teachers to live in fear every year at exam time. But there should be accountability.

    Every occupation has some accountability. What makes ours the exception?

    • There is a difference between incompetent and less effective. Incompetent should be removed. Less effective is a symptom of many things, some of it is motivation, some is skill, some of it is training… how are those evaluated by student test scores? I’ve seen teachers who are extremely effective with one class or group of students be much less effective with others. If someone who is effective with 4th grade is given a 1st grade class, will they be effective? I taught 5 different classes per day my first 8 years of teaching, do you think that I was as effective as I would have been teaching 2? Are those the teacher’s fault? Should they be punished for them? Do you think that the administration won’t overload teachers that they want rid of? Or change their schedule every year so that they have to create completely new courses?

    • Please read over the resources at the link I provide above. We’re not talking about a lack of accountability. That’s a straw man. We’re talking about creating schemes in which extreme volatility doesn’t lead to extreme unfairness (and illegal personnel actions).

  3. I strongly believe that even students themselves should not be judged on their scores. So imho evaluation of teachers being based on theirs students’ test scores is basically not a valid argument.

  4. I don’t believe that students should be judged on their test scores. I don’t believe in standardized testing at all, actually. I think that education needs to be about educating the students in the classroom and focus less on test scores. Just because a student test badly doesn’t mean that they don’t know the information.

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