Test scores to evaluate teachers? The research says, "No!"
On Monday, the state House of Representatives will be holding a hearing on SB 5748, a bill passed by the state Senate that will mandate the use of Smarter Balanced Assessment scores in teacher and principal evaluations. 15 LWEA members will be traveling to Olympia to join other teachers throughout the state in expressing their deep concern about this flawed legislation.
Research has consistently shown huge problems with tying student standardized test scores to teachers' evaluations. Last May, in a large-scale analysis of systems that evaluate teachers based partly on student test scores, researchers found little or no correlation between quality teaching and the evaluations the teachers received.
"The concern is that these state tests and these measures of evaluating teachers don't really seem to be associated with the things we think of as defining good teaching," said Morgan S. Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. Polikoff worked on the analysis with Andrew C. Porter, dean and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.
The number of states and school districts using teacher evaluation systems based on student standardized test scores has risen dramatically over the past five years, pushed by the Obama administration's requirement to use test scores in evaluations in order to be waived from the burdensome demands of the No Child Left Behind Act. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia now require student achievement scores to be a "significant" or the "most significant" factor in teacher evaluations.
Polikoff and Porter's work was funded by a $125,000 grant from the Gates Foundation. They found that some teachers who scored well on classroom observances, student surveys, and other indicators of teacher quality had students who scored poorly on standardized tests. They also found the opposite was true.
Other research in New York City concluded the average margin of error was plus or minus 30 percentile points. That means a teacher who scored in the 50th percentile, for example, could actually be anywhere between the 20th and 80th percentiles---a range of 60 points.
These evaluation systems attempt to determine the "added value" a teacher has on his/her students. So-called "Value-Added Measures," or VAM systems, have been widely criticized by researchers. Even the United States Department of Education warns that value-added estimates for teacher-level analyses are subject to a considerable degree of random error.
Other groups that warn against using VAM are the American Statistical Association, Educational Testing Service (ETS), National Research Council, American Educational Research Association and National Academy of Education, the RAND Corporation, and the National Education Policy Center.
Despite compelling evidence against using student test scores in teachers' evaluations, our state Senate passed legislation that will require school districts to do just that. The ball is now in the court of the state House of Representatives.
WEA members have sent over 100,000 emails to legislators since the Senate passed this legislation. If you haven’t already done so, make sure your legislators know how you feel on this issue. You can do so from your personal device on non-work time by going to www.ourvoicewashingtonea.org.