Opinion
Teaching Profession Commentary

Take the Time to Evaluate Teacher Evaluation

By Tia Sukin, W. Alan Nicewander, Phoebe Winter, Howard Mitzel, Lisa Keller & Matt Schulz — April 01, 2014 5 min read

Do you remember New York City’s Pascale Mauclair? She was an educator who primarily instructed English-language learners and won accolades for teaching excellence. But then she was labeled the worst teacher in New York City in 2012. Following the release of much-publicized assessment-based ratings by New York City’s education department, stunned parents demanded that their children be instructed by a different teacher, and that Ms. Mauclair—whose test-based ratings were low—be fired. This happened despite tremendous support for the teacher from her principal. Later, it was revealed that her rating had failed to account for such factors as her students’ English-language-learner status.

Thankfully, there is some good news for teacher-evaluation systems that could help avoid this type of error. Last June, the U.S. Department of Education agreed to allow some states to seek an additional year before they must rely on new evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores. Thus, their deadlines will be extended to the 2016-17 school year, giving those states a total of three years before teacher-evaluation systems must be used for high-stakes purposes, such as identifying teachers for sanctions or rewards.

This time frame is an absolute window of opportunity in which to conduct necessary validity studies. Without studies to support the use of student scores for evaluating educators, good teachers could be dismissed and teachers needing support, or those who should not be teaching at all, may not be identified.

When teachers challenge the validity of evaluation systems, it can appear self-serving. Because of this, it is the responsibility of testing professionals such as us to weigh in on the use of student scores in the evaluation of teachers. Testing professionals must lead the way in providing a framework for evaluating proposed systems that purport to measure teacher quality.

Testing professionals must lead the way in providing a framework for evaluating proposed systems that purport to measure teacher quality."

In fact, unless appropriate validity studies are conducted, widespread use of student test scores for evaluating teachers will constitute a serious violation of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. These standards were developed collaboratively by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education with the intent of providing test developers, administrators, and users with criteria for evaluating both the quality of a test and its appropriate uses. A large component of the standards consists of guidance for evaluating the validity of proposed uses of test scores.

In a 2012 research paper, Lorrie A. Shepard, the dean of the education school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, emphasized that validation requires testing the viability of the assumptions underlying the use of test scores in teacher evaluation.

The following list identifies some of the assumptions that need to be verified as part of a study to ensure that when an evaluation declares a teacher “effective” or “ineffective,” the label carries meaning:

  • The instruments (e.g., accountability assessments, teacher-observation protocols, student-satisfaction surveys) that make up the teacher-evaluation system are designed to be sensitive to classroom instruction and changes in classroom instruction across a diverse population of students.
  • The administration and implementation of the instruments are consistent with their protocols.
  • The scoring rules and rubrics used for instruments are appropriate.
  • Scores assigned by raters (e.g., peers, principals, students) are accurate, consistent with scoring protocols, and free of bias.
  • Observations used in the evaluation are fair, using multiple observers and representing the variety of conditions that could affect teacher performance (e.g., time of year, time of day, subject area covered), so that results are generalizable to teacher performance as a whole.
  • The measurement instruments are sufficiently reliable.
  • Teacher-evaluation scores do not significantly correlate with variables associated with the students they teach (e.g., English-language proficiency, prior performance on content, free or reduced-price lunch status). That is, the instruments address factors that can be changed by the teacher.
  • The instrument outcomes are related to the desired traits (e.g., those exhibited in classrooms that differentiate between higher- and lower-quality teachers).
  • Teachers with higher scores are more effective than teachers with lower scores.
  • Raters are able to appropriately assess teacher performance.

Some of these assumptions are easy to test, and data supporting them may already be available. Gathering and analyzing data for other assumptions will require more creative research designs.

Also critical is the evaluation of assumptions related to consequences of policy implementation. For example, policies concerning the use of teacher-evaluation measures typically rest on assumptions that decisionmakers understand and can effectively interpret and use the measures to select teachers for rewards, sanctions, and additional professional development, and that pay-for-performance incentives would increase teacher quality.

Likewise, undesirable consequences need to be explored and vetted for their impact. For example, personal concern for evaluation results and their associated rewards or sanctions may discourage teachers from accepting teaching assignments for specific student populations; or the number of effective teachers may be inadequate to replenish those who are removed through sanctions or who retire in discouragement from the teaching profession.

Most importantly, the public’s and the education profession’s trust in the labels placed on teachers is vital in enhancing the quality of education in the classroom. (On this matter, a lawsuit was recently filed in Tennessee over the state’s value-added teacher-evaluation system, which relies on student test scores.) Ultimately, we need to gather evidence to support these labels and address possible consequences.

We plead: Evaluate the validity of claims made about teacher quality before moving forward. We now have an extra year granted to us by the Department of Education. We need to take this time to conduct essential validity studies for the sake of true accountability, student learning, and a just educational measurement system.

A version of this article appeared in the April 02, 2014 edition of Education Week as Take the Time to Evaluate Teacher Evaluation

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion What Can We Do to Help the Well-Being of Teachers?
A Seat at the Table focused on the social-emotional well-being of teachers during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the guests.
1 min read
Sera   FCG
Shutterstock
Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty