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Should teachers be evaluated on student test scores?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on May 21, 2014

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Photo of Dawn Munger

“Yeah, I think so.”

Photo of Charles Peterson


Photo of Theodora Dixon

“I wouldn’t think they should be.”

Photo of Kathe Clark

“My inclination is no.”


Mike Edson 4 years ago

Yes, but with a wide margin of error.

Russell Fryberger 4 years ago

Only if the parents are evaluated on how the students act when at in public.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years ago

Yes, they should because a test reveals how much a student knows about a subject.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

I could memorize the parts of a car and pass a multiple choice test, but you wouldn't want me to work on your car. There is more to education than being able to take a multiple choice test.

Scott Morgan 4 years ago

Absolutely not, in fact "high stakes" testing should be eliminated. In some education fields for instance as higher achieving IEP students. In simple terms students performing higher with a possibility of a significant academic disability.

Makes sense for all students. Simply take examples of work which can be reliably substantiated done by the student and evaluate. Of course this should be done over the course of a year.

This in conjunction with local or state standards will give interested parties all needed regarding instruction. Or, will it? Only problem, in most subjects "stress testing or evaluation done by samples" give only a picture of the culmination of sequenced education.

Bob Reinsch 4 years ago

Only if the teacher can pick and choose their students.

David Reber 4 years ago

Let's evaluate dentists on how many cavities people have. Not just those people who follow dentist's advice, but also those who ignore it while gobbling up candy & soda, with no brushing and no flossing. And also those whose parents won't let them brush, because brushing is evil (like those parents who tell their kids not to listen to any of that nonsense their science teacher talks about). And, those who never bother to see the dentist at all (like the students who rarely if ever come to school).

And since we're talking about evaluating music, art, and foreign language teachers based on their student's scores on math and reading tests; lets just go ahead and evaluate optometrists, chiropractors, and podiatrists on how many cavities people have as well.

Makes perfect sense.

John Graham 4 years ago

Hospitals and doctors get evaluated on basis of hospital re-admission within 30 days of discharge. The hospital and doctor has no direct control over the patient if they change their dressings as directed, take their medications, follow special diets, follow up with physical therapy etc. Yet if patient gets re-admitted to the hospital that is charged against the hospital and subsequently against the doctor. Too many re-admissions and the hospital and the doctor could see Medicare issues such as reduced payments or the hospital could be in trouble with keeping their accreditation. Too many re-admissions by a doctor could land them in trouble with the hospital and with Medicare. It is possible too many re-admissions could cost the doctor his hospital privileges which could kill his practice. Doctors and hospitals are held accountable for their patients behaviors even if they don't have direct control over those behaviors. Since teachers are quick to point out that they are professionals, then they can be judged just like other professionals.

James Howlette 4 years ago

But do they get evaluated on whether or not patients who were cared for by a different doctor/hospital return? Because test scores don't actually follow the child when it comes to teacher evaluations in most cases. They're not measured by how much progress a student has made in 9 months. They're measured by whether or not the meet a given standard without any concern about where those students were at the beginning of the school year, how much school they missed, or whether or not they transferred in from another district.

I'm all about using data to improve our schools. So long as the test is an appropriate measure of the skills of the teacher in teaching. I don't think the current system provides the appropriate data for that.

John Graham 4 years ago

Can test yearly to compare progress or test start of year and end of year. I am not saying this is perfect or should be only evaluation of a teacher. But some objective system of teacher evaluation would be useful more than an administrator watching the teacher for a few hours each year (or every few years once the teacher has been at the school for three or more years) as is the current system. An objective factor such as is that teachers students showing similar improvement compared to other teachers in similar schools. Without some measure of student progress how is anyone really to know if the teacher is effective. Passing or failing all the students doesn't prove good or poor teaching. Neither does a well liked or hated teacher show how effective they are. If a teachers students are consistently year after year failing to show progress compared to students from other classes in the same school or from other similar schools then a more thorough review of the teachers tactics would be in order. I would never recommend firing a teacher solely on students testing progress but some objective measure could be useful. Those consistently lagging could receive extra training and those consistently at the top could relay what they are doing to the other teachers.

A doctor is measured by the outcomes of his patients based on ICD diagnosis codes. If for particular ICD code a doctor's patients are consistently not improving as expected then the doctor's method of care is more closely reviewed. The doctor and his charts can be given a thorough review by the hospital or Medicare or both to be sure that there are legitimate reasons (other than poor practice of medicine) why his patients outcomes are less than his peers.

And yes Medicare (and private insurance) tracks if patient gets re-admitted whether to same or different hospital and same or different doctor. With ICD coding it is quite easy to follow if re-admit is for same issue/complication of prior treatment or for a completely unrelated issue. If for same issue/complication of prior treatment then original hospital and doctor get dinged for it.

James Howlette 4 years ago

It does not count against the second doctor or hospital for the readmittance, though, right? It counts against the first hospital/doctor/whomever. That's what I'm saying. The current system dings teachers for what went on in prior years, not what happened during the current year. When you use tests that do not follow the student, do not allow for different learning rates, and simply demand that all students reach the same level in any given year, you're evaluating teachers on factors that are not measuring whether or not they are good teachers. It's measuring whether or not they're good at picking students. Inner city teachers are going to be judged as worse teachers than rich suburban teachers, and special ed teachers are all going to be terrible. Music teachers are going to be judged as lousy because they're being measured on their students' reading scores.

If you want to have some sort of objective criteria for teacher evaluation, and I"m not against the concept, you have to make sure that you're using the appropriate instrument. The current state assessment is not that instrument. Better yet, that instrument should be used for formative evaluations and tied to specific learning objectives rather than grade level, so teachers could use the feedback to individualize their instruction. But then, that might actually improve learning. I know I'm cynical, but the current push for assessment-driven evaluations seems intentionally designed to do the opposite.

John Graham 4 years ago

That is why I suggest start of year and end of year testing. That should allow one to see what progress was made during the time that teacher had that child for that particular subject. Give the student a standardized test at the beginning of the year and a similar test at the end of the year. Not all students will score the same on the start of year or end of year tests. What should be looked at is the students showing improvement consistent with average. Absolute numbers not important but are there measurable gains from start of year to end. One kid start year with 90 on the test another with a 60. Don't expect both to finish with 100. But does the 90 become a 95 at year end and does the 60 become a 65? Then teacher is showing a positive teaching trend. Can't expect the 60 to suddenly become a 95. Measure progress from where each kid started his personal year.Not every student is an A student but each should be making forward progress. Yes teachers will teach the test. But at pre-college levels isn't that ok? Make sure everyone can do algebra. Look at general trends for students to see if they are trending in a positive manner at a similar rate as other students from other similar schools. That why I say similar students from similar schools. Unfair to judge private against public schools, wealthy against poorer. If judging year progress from algebra I from ten different poor inner city schools over a five year period, should then be able to see a trend if someone is not effective. Then look more closely at that person to see why the difference. Can't compare student outcomes from Lawrence to a poor neighborhood inner city Detroit school. But ought to be able to compare multiple inner city Detroit schools and teachers to see trends. I agree that comparing teachers based on all students outcomes against each other in total is not reasonable. Comparing special ed gets more complicated due to severity of students' issues. Obviously teachers should only be eval for the class taught. Math teachers on math only, etc. Evaluating a music teacher on students general reading or math is stupid. But could grade music teachers on students understanding of music theory. My issue is there are a lot of supposedly bright people out there in education. There ought to be some objective way of eval teachers performance. Simply someone saying they are a good teacher based on solely subjective impressions is not effective. You had a good teacher in your opinion, how do you prove they were really a good teacher versus someone you liked because you connected with them for some reason? A doctor with a good bedside manner may be terrible at medicine but patients will say he was a good doctor because they liked him. That's why Medicare and insurance looks at actual outcomes of patients to be sure the doctor that everyone likes is having outcomes that match the average. If not then they look harder at him to see what is going on whether patients like him or not.

James Howlette 4 years ago

We're not disagreeing in concept. I'm just saying that doing this halfway would be worse than not doing it at all. The state assessments do not measure grade-independent growth or follow students or occur at the beginning and end of the year. Current proposals really do have music teachers evaluated for their students' reading abilities.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

Money needs to be provided to hire an administrator whose whole job is to evaluate teachers. Principals have too many other things to do.

And simple test scores can not give you a good idea of the whole picture. Also, if they need to use a test, it must be a valid test. Everyone says the teachers teach to the test. I can't imagine giving someone a test over something they have never been taught, unless it's a pretest to see how much of a unit they already know. There needs to be valid tests, and tests that show progress too. A 3rd grader may not be reading as well as he/she should, because he/she is not developmentally ready yet, but 6 months later they have learned and even caught up. A snapshot of a moment in time does not show the whole story, but too many people want to see that snapshot instead of the whole story. Look at how many people protested the new grade cards, which actually gives you more details of your student's progress. They just want a simple A,B,C, D or F.

James Howlette 4 years ago

There are grade-independent tests that could track student progress over time and offer teacher insights into where a student needs to grow. It's not reinventing the wheel. It's just not the way things are currently done in the world of high stakes testing.

Bob Smith 4 years ago

Considering the often bumptious nature of modern yutes , I'd say this would be a bad idea.

David Reber 4 years ago

Funny that the people who say teachers should buck up and take nonsense evaluation systems just like other professionals are tellingly silent about teacher's salaries compared to other professionals. Want me to accept an unfair system just because medicare imposes one on doctors? Fine. I'll do that, and I eagerly await my 350% raise. That being said, there is plenty of research to show that using student test scores, in whatever scheme the test publishing profiteers dream up (VAM, etc.), is a completely invalid and unreliable way to evaluate teachers.

John Graham 4 years ago

If you are trying to argue that elementary teachers should be paid on par with a pediatrician (your 350% raise request) then you are off your rocker. The pediatrician has at least 11 years of schooling/training compared to 4 for the teacher. The pediatrician paid $200k plus for medical school over and above college costs compared to college costs for the teacher. The pediatrician works 2+ months more per year than the teacher. Both work long days. The pediatrician funds their own retirement plan whereas most teachers get at least some retirement funding by the school district or state. At least some of the older teachers could retire at 30 years service with a district/state provided pension. Also keep in mind any mistake by the pediatrician on any one patient could result in a malpractice lawsuit that could cost the pediatrician his practice, savings and home. No teacher has such malpractice concerns. I can agree that teachers could be paid more. But don't make some ridiculous claim that teachers should be paid on par with pediatricians.

James Howlette 4 years ago

I believe what he's arguing is not that teachers should be paid doctors' wages, but that absent those wages, they shouldn't be held to doctors' standards.

John Yocum 4 years ago

Oh, sorry John Graham, didn't catch what you were saying. School just ended for me on Thursday and since then I've had my head in a book about project-based learning, which my school will be implementing next fall. Then I'll be reading up on the current idea of blended learning (student interest-guided instruction concept). Middle of June I'll be starting to meet with my team to start organizing our year by themes which will intertwine reading/writing/social studies/science, another concept we're bring asked to implement to meet Kansas's version of the Common Core. In July I am traveling to Oklahoms to meet with a friend whose specialty is adventure education, to work on plans for "motion breaks" for use during the day to help my kids who can't focus/sit still to get rid of some energy and improve their academics. When the first of August rolls around, I will be returning to my classroom to set up my room as I had to take it all down, books and all, and pack it away so my room could be painted. Then my intern from KU will be showing up so we can start planning her place/responsibilities in my classroom for the fall. About that time, it will be my "official" contract day return. Now, what was that again about my only "working" ten months out of the year?

My first year of teaching I tallied the number of hours I worked in the school year and it added up to more than a year's worth of 40 hour weeks. And before you say, "Well, you signed a contract that said your work day was from 8:15-4:15, so you can't complain," I'm not. I just don't appreciate people making blanket statements about my profession. Meanwhile I better start setting aside the extra cash to pay for my new license. If you haven't heard, teachers are paying for the administrative costs of the new teacher evaluation program.

John Graham 4 years ago

You knew a teacher's requirements, working conditions and pay before you went into that career. If not you should have. No one held you at gunpoint to force you into that career. No one is forcing you to continue your career. Knowing what you did before you started, you now simply have what you asked for. The requirements, conditions and pay (comparable to other professions) have not changed substantially since you entered the profession. You got exactly what you were promised when you started. What did you think teaching was going to be? So if you don't like the requirements, conditions and/or pay, quit. But don't go into a profession well knowing the requirements, conditions and pay, get exactly what was promised, then complain that society needs to dramatically change those requirements, conditions and pay to suit your desires as to what they should be. So instead of complaining that you are a professional and not treated like one, that the administrators don't know what they are doing, the school boards don't pay enough and society doesn't value your efforts, simply quit and find a career you like better. Life is too short for you to be in a profession despite being exactly what you originally asked for is now not to your liking. Quit, you like everyone else in the world is replaceable. So there will be someone to take your job.

John Yocum 4 years ago

Did I say I wanted to quit? Did I say all if that? Don't think so. I said I wasn't complaining. I was pointing out how your comment about my working ten months out of the year was bogus. I knew what I was getting into. If I didn't, I wouldn't still be in the "profession". I think I've seen your rants here before about this topic and your response seems to confirm I have. Sounds very familiar. By the way, if you really think teachers aren't getting sued for "malpractice," where are you hiding these days?

David Reber 3 years, 12 months ago

"If you don't like it, quit..." There you have it, ladies and gents. The John Graham plan for recruiting and retaining the best teaching force in the world.

James Howlette 3 years, 12 months ago

I find that a lot of the arguments come from the wrong paradigm. The notion that schools are failing because too many teachers are "bad." I'm not going to pretend that every teacher is the most awesome teacher that ever did teach, but I'm also not going to accept the notion that the teaching profession is somehow attracting slackers and incompetent workers at a rate higher than other professions and that if only we could fire them all more easily we'd solve all our problems. Setting up impossible goals and systems designed to show high failure rates is a tactic by privatizers - and often they couple it with systems that hide those same problems in privatized schools.

BTW, objective data says that those privatized schools aren't better for the kids, but privatizers will either nitpick that data or try to move the goalpost into an argument about how privatized schools give you "choice." Choice doesn't matter if your first argument is that schools are failing to educate.

I'm not against all assessment or even against the concept of assessment being used as part of a teacher evaluation. I've just yet to see a proposal that does that in any way that will either improve learning or evaluate teachers on things that actually objectively show their skills as teachers. Instead, we get what are basically incentives to kick out kids or move to school districts with higher neighborhood property values where the kids are going to meet state standards every year.

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