Teacher Evaluations, Student Test ScoresNext year, teacher evaluations in Houston, Texas, might be even more affected by student test scores. Do you think this is a good or bad idea? What are...

Teacher Evaluations, Student Test Scores

Next year, teacher evaluations in Houston, Texas, might be even more affected by student test scores. Do you think this is a good or bad idea? What are evaluations primarily based on in your area?

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In response to Post 6, it's not logical to compare education in Korea to education in America. I taught in South Korea, and one has to admit that the educational climate and student backgrounds there are entirely different than they are here in the United States. In South Korea, single-parent households are uncommon (statistics show that students from single-parent homes have to work much harder to be successful in school). Similarly, truancy is not an issue in Korea, and as you stated in your post, the Korean government issues a standardized test that all students take (one which Korean students in their final year of high school prepare for by spending up to 19 hours a day studying for). None of those factors are true for the United States, and they are just a few of the differences.

It's not "all based on class culture." If only that were true! I have great rapport with my students. My students have excellent pass rates on their AP exams and state exit exam, but I still do not advocate merit pay because I know of other teachers who have excellent class cultures but who can do nothing about whether a student comes to class only 20 days per quarter, receives a passing grade from the administration because they have a quota to meet, and then fails standardized tests. If this were an exception at my school, then perhaps merit pay would work, but it's becoming more common for teachers to combat high levels of truancy or to advocate for students who have no one doing so at home or to try to bring a high school student up to grade level after he has been passed along for years even though he couldn't read (I dealt with none of these issues as a teacher in Korea but deal with them on a weekly basis here in the States.).

I agree that a great class culture and students can do amazing things, but some times those amazing things are completely unrelated to standardized test scores!

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In our district, standardized testing is something the kids do not take seriously. I know that at the elementary and middle school levels the teachers and administration do all they can to motivate the students to do well on these tests: they have pep rallies, give out prizes, etc.

My understanding, however, is that students who do not read English as their first language get the same test, but with more time to finish it; I don't believe special needs children get different tests; and, finally, some students do not care about testing. My own daughter, with two English-teachers for parents, runs out of gas and starts to fill in anything because she is tired and can no longer concentrate—wrong answers are preferred over unfinished test, and I consider her of above-average intelligence.

And at the high school level, eleventh grade students know the test means nothing to them: it does not count for a grade. Many kids fly through the test so they can read or sleep. This is not the case with all students, but with enough kids that it hurts total test score results.

I don't think test scores should be used to evaluate teachers. There are too many variables, and without controlling those variables, the test results are skewed, and the teachers pay the price.

There are an enormous number of teachers who go above and beyond the call all the time, in ways too numerous to count. How can more be asked of educators who already neglect family or mental or personal health to meet the needs of all their kids?

There has to be another way to hold students and educators accountable, without having the students, even indirectly, assessing a teacher's competence.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've never taught in a school which used standardized test scores as part of the teacher evaluation process.  We look at them in order to identify weaknesses and strengths of the students as well as the curriculum and the teacher in order to make improvements and adjustments for the next year.  I, too, want accountability for teachers and am willing to be held to a reasonable standard.  Standardized test scores are not that standard, it seems to me.  Too many factors beyond the control of the teacher, the school, and even the parents are involved.  Unfortunately we're living in a time when many American students either see no value in education (based on lots of factors, including the economy right now) and have become somewhat lazy in their approach to learning (it has to be fun and entertaining or they're just not interested).  It's true that excellent teachers are able to overcome those obstacles; however, as long as this is a country where people can achieve some level of success without a college education there will always be students who see high school as a waste of time.  It's hard to fight that.   

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Student test scores should play a role in teacher evaluations, but I don't think that it's possible to base merit pay or job retention solely on student test scores simply because of the many non-teacher-related factors involved in test scores. Districts need to find a balance for teacher evaluations--a balance that considers test scores along with other relevant categories.

Currently in my district, our evaluations consist of the following categories: teacher attendance, teachers' pass rate, unit plans, teachers' taking attendance (I'm not kidding), and the number of referrals written by teacher. While I believe that the reasoning behind designing a multi-part evaluation is sound, the evaluation itself seems to have turned into another check-off item for our assistant principals. As a conscientious teacher, I want accountability for the students' sake, but often at the end of the year, someone simply fills in the blanks on the evaluations which are then filed away.

I would like to hear if anyone has experienced an effective evaluation process at his or her school.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If the students are motivated to do their best work, it's a great idea.  If, like most students, they are not always motivated or are distracted by life (parent divorce, single parent issues, drug and alcohol abuse in the home, teen pregnancy, illness, boyfriend/girlfriend issues, balancing job and school, lack of sleep, malnourishment, etc.), then it's not a good idea at all.  In this case, which is more likely the norm than the perfectly motivated student with straight A's, the student test scores will not accurately assess a teacher's effectiveness regardless of a teacher's rapport with students.  Likewise, if students do not like the teacher (personality conflict, past issues of discipline or strict expectations, etc.), they are smart enough to know that simply not performing well on the test will hurt that teacher.  They will do this without thinking of the consequences of a poor score and how it reflects on the students themselves. 

howesk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Show me a study that proves teacher quality is the largest factor that influences standardized test scores and I'll support assessing teachers by standardized test scores. Until then, I'm skeptical. I've had some pretty terrible teachers in my life and always done extremely well on standardized tests. I'd say this is probably a result of my socio-economic status, emphasis on learning and reading in my home, my own motivation to succeed educationally, and my parents' encouragement.

Is a good teacher one who distributes handouts and has students practice for standardized tests each day? I don't think so. I fear that this type of teaching is going to become the norm.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that it is a good idea as long as three things are done:

  1. Student scores must be measured at the end of the year and compared with those same students at the beginning of the year.
  2. Progress made must be compared with progress made by other similar students.  In other words, the performance of a teacher with low-income students, for example, should be compared with the perfomacne of other low-income students.
  3. This should be a multi-year process.  There should not be draconian punishments or excessive rewards for a one-year result.  They should be averaged over multiple years.
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Its essentially the merit pay argument, except it uses a very blunt instrument - a standardized test - to assess whether a teacher deserves merit or not.  While certainly convenient and easy to apply, it's not an equitable or accurate system of compensation given the huge variety of factors that affect student performance, especially only on select test dates.  There's nothing wrong with requiring excellence of teachers, but this kind of idea is flawed from the start in my opinion.

Evaluations in my state are based on regular observations by the administration, and are not tied to pay or compensation in any way.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hasn't anyone been reading about Tennessee and the Race to the Top? Sheesh! Teachers will be evaluated annually, and 35% of those evaluations will be based on student test scores. We have three AYP (adequate yearly progress) courses--English 2, Biology, and Algebra 1. Every teacher, regardless of what he or she teaches, will be evaluated based on how well his or her school did on the AYP end of course tests. Is that fair? I think not.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree that I am deeply suspicious of performance-based teacher evaluations. Clearly, results is one important aspect that can be used, but it is just one out of a whole plethora of other issues that are equally important. In our results-focussed society this can lead to disproportionate emphasis on grades that students receive and lack of focus on other impacting issues that can contribute to good or bad grades.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we need to be very careful here.  There are so many factors involved in how a student scores.  Even if we just focus on growth from one year to the next, there are many things that get between teacher and student, or student and test, that the teacher has no control over.

epollock | Student

In response to Poster #8, I don't compare them at all. When I taught in the USA about 25 years ago, the district used outdated testing and value added methods; I welcomed it. I teach the same way here as I did in the USA. I am pointing out that value added or not, the best teachers will always be at the top of any method used. I remember it was a third of my salary back then.

epollock | Student

40% of my salary is based on government test scores. I think it is a very effective tool. Weaker teachers think it is not. My students take the same bubble sheet tests from the Korean government as any other teacher here and I still rank in the 98th percentile of all teachers in Korea. I used to be in the 99th percentile, but oh well, time passes.

It is all based on class culture: a great class culture and students can do amazing things, a weak class culture and students, along with the teacher will flounder. 

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