The Lookout

Twenty-three states now use student test scores to evaluate teachers

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

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A parent-teacher conference in Chula Vista, Calif (AP)

Over the past two years, state governments have taken dramatic steps to transform how they evaluate and retain teachers.

In 2009, just 15 states employed teacher evaluations to judge educator performance, while only four states required students' test scores to be used in those evaluations, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. Today, 24 states require yearly evaluations, and in 13 states, teachers can now be fired if their students do not improve on test scores.

The report finds that 17 states and Washington, D.C., now use student test scores as a meaningful factor in evaluating teachers. (The states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee.)

The reports' authors admit that not all subjects can be tested as easily as math and reading--but they contend that such difficulties shouldn't prevent states from continuing to try to evaluate teachers based on "student achievement," even when different subjects employ different measures of such achievement.

The authors say they disapprove of policies in Indiana, Michigan, and Florida that notify parents if their child is placed in a classroom with a teacher who was rated "ineffective" by the state's evaluation system. "If a district has evidence that a teacher is ineffective," the report says, "state policy should provide the means for the district to take the necessary steps to remove the individual from the classroom, not humiliate the teacher."

"You certainly can see the good intention behind that policy. Nobody wants their child to be with a poor teacher, but we think there are other ways to get at that," Jane Hannaway, vice president of the American Institutes of Research, told reporters. The American Institutes of Research has been contracted by some states to develop evaluation systems.

The country's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, opposes using students' standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told Yahoo News in September that value-added measures are too unreliable to serve as the chief factor in evaluating teachers.

Many states began adopting the policies to compete in the Obama administration's $4 billion "Race to the Top" competition, which doled out money to states that loosened rules on charter schools and developed test-based teacher evaluation systems.

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National Council on Teacher Quality

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