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Using student test scores to evaluate teachers: Is it time for a change?

Now that the standard of using student scores to grade teachers has surpassed the 15-year mark, educational experts once again are analyzing teacher evaluations to determine if they are due for another overhaul. While it appears that using student scores is not going anywhere soon, school districts may be placing less weight on student scores.

Like other employee evaluations, teacher evaluations were meant to reward higher-performing teachers and provide incentive for teachers in general to excel in their job responsibilities. Back in 2009, states started shifting to a model that took into account student outcomes as part of that process. Since then, 46 states either require or recommend student’s achievement weigh into the outcome of teacher evaluations, according to the Center for Public Education (CPE).

The extent to which student scores are weighed varies from state to state, with some districts only measuring by student growth percentiles (SGP) that primarily measure student gains — those improvements made by students while in the teachers’ classrooms. However, some states add student scores on standardized tests as part of the evaluation system.

Across the board, states integrated other factors as part of the evaluation. None of the states that used student achievement as part of the evaluation counted it for more than 50 percent of the final score. In many cases, the percentage was much less.

According to the CPE, here are a few more changes developing in teacher evaluations:

More observations. Instead of principals observing a teacher once a year as part of an evaluation ritual, trained evaluators are making observations in the classroom throughout the year, using a research-based rubric. In one third of states, classroom observations were either required or recommended.

Regular feedback. Giving teachers more useful feedback throughout the year, afforded by increased observations, provides them the opportunity to make changes more readily. This is a trend being adopted by corporate America; it reinforces the intent of employee evaluations. If you want them to improve their performance, you need to give them the feedback and tools to grow.

Peer feedback. To assist in teacher development, many school systems also solicit the assistance of more seasoned teachers to offer feedback in teacher evaluations. These peer evaluations can provide another perspective to assist teachers in their development.

With more frequent observations and feedback, evaluators can better manage the process with teacher evaluation software that makes it easier to keep track of progress. Standard for Success offers an employee evaluation solution that helps managers quickly review and update employees’ progress. Contact us to request a demo.