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Standardized test scores have limitations when used to evaluate teacher performance.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Good teachers welcome and even thrive on high expectations. But trying to measure their skills and worth based solely on numbers plugged into a mathematical formula is overly simplistic, not to mention insulting.
It would be illogical to ignore testing data gathered across the commonwealth each year. But Virginia schools are discovering the limitations of those statistics, even when they’re just one component in teacher evaluations.
State officials obtained a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law by agreeing to employ teacher performance measures that take into account student academic progress. But such data is less meaningful in schools that serve highly transient populations. For example, in some Roanoke schools, a third of the students sitting in their desks on the first day of each academic year will have moved and been replaced with newcomers by the time classes let out for the summer.
On the other end of the spectrum, standardized scores offer little insight into high-achieving students who ace every test. In cases where a student is making academic progress, that growth is typically the result of a team effort by multiple teachers and tutors, as well as parents.
There are practical matters, too. Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests are not administered in every grade, nor do they cover every subject.
Local school districts still have the flexibility to develop other measures to be incorporated into teacher evaluations, including classroom observation and completion of professional development programs. More importantly, school principals and administrators can help teachers set goals for individual students and track the progress throughout the year.
No perfect performance evaluation exists. Data-driven and subjective measures all have shortcomings. Virginia schools can benefit from educational research at the University of Virginia and other colleges. And they can share their successes as they develop measures that fit their own needs.
All communities want qualified, motivated teachers to educate their children. A workable method for achieving that goal cannot be found on a spreadsheet.
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