The question is, what will happen when teachers are systematically rewarded, or punished, based to some extent on standardized tests? If we really want our children to learn more, the design of any system must be carefully thought through, to avoid sending incentives astray.
“When you put a lot of weight on one measure, people will try to do well on that measure,” Jonah Rockoff of Columbia said. “Some things they do will be good, in line with the objectives. Others will amount to cheating or gaming the system.”
In too many places, however, efforts are underway to craft systems that disregard the art of teaching in favor of the (misunderstood) science of measurement. These sorts of systems are more about pushing people out than lifting them up, and they continue to act as though the intellectual growth of students (and a narrow definition of it at that) is the preeminent measure of an effective teacher.
"The evidence against using student test scores to evaluate teachers keeps growing." More on the recently released study showing that when compared to other indicators of teacher performance, student test results do not correlate. According to one of the study's authors, Morgan Polikoff, “While value-added measures do provide some useful information, our findings show that they are not picking up the things we think of as being good teaching. Given the growing extent to which states are using these measures for a wide array of decisions, our findings are troubling.”"
All these attempts to reform teacher evaluations are happening as the research on how best to assess teacher quality remains in its earliest stages, and teachers and students are being affected with every shift in policy. “We’re in the Wright brothers stage,” said Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Education. “We’re getting these policies in the air, and they’re not designed to be as effective as they probably could be. There’s still a lot to learn.”
The thing that might be most insulting about value-added modeling as a means of assessing teaching is that it assumes that we know and agree on what good teaching is—because we would have to know that before we could create a method to assess it, no matter how simple or complex that method may be. But we don't know for sure, partly because there are so many variables in teaching that they could never possibly be isolated and controlled, and partly because not everyone shares the same vision of what schools are for. Proponents of value-added modeling skip right past this problem, assuming that a teacher is effective if that teacher helps his or her students earn higher test scores. Not only is that
"A spreading method of teacher performance that places significant importance on student growth measures has a weak to nonexistent link with teacher performance, according to new researchpublished Tuesday.
Morgan Polikoff and Andrew Porter, two education experts, analyzed the relationships between "value-added model" (VAM) measures of teacher performance and the content or quality of teachers' instruction by evaluating data from 327 fourth and eighth grade math and English teachers in six school districts. The weak relationships made them question whether the data would be useful in evaluating teachers or improving classroom instruction, the report says."
The latest acronym that is popping up everywhere is: VAM. It stands for Value-Added Measurement and refers to the practice of evaluating teachers based on the performance of their students using standardized tests as measures.This link goes to a list of blog posts on the NPE site that focus on VAM. A quick scan of the dates shows that VAM as a topic on this particular site has become very frequent lately.
KNOWLEDGE BRIEF 6by Dan Goldhaber and Susanna Loeb Evaluators have to rely on inherently imperfect measures to rate teachers. As a result, evaluating teachers to group them into performance categories will inevitably lead to errors.
"School districts around the country are facing obstacles as they attempt to finalize new teacher evaluation systems in time for the 2013-14 school year. At least 30 states have passed laws requiring new evaluation systems, but many cities are experiencing pushback from teachers and unions, particularly on requirements to include student test scores as a part of a teacher’s rating."
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