Teacher Evaluation and Innovation

Defenders of the status quo are not alone in having problems with value-added measures of teacher performance. Innovators also have reason to worry: it is difficult to assess value-added when teachers work in teams or in mixed-age, ungraded, or individually paced classrooms. Teacher value-added assessment will be difficult in schools that combine online and teacher-directed instruction (think Rocketship, Carpe Diem, School of One).

As much as we need new teacher evaluation systems that incorporate students’ performance, we can’t afford to discourage innovation. If we are thoughtful and creative about our evaluation policy, there will be no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

For example, in blended-model schools, students work with a team of educators: online tutors, non-certificated support teachers, and certificated lead teachers. In this case it makes sense to assess the value-added of the team.

Also in blended models, students set their own pace. Some students fly ahead in one subject area but stay on a more typical pace in others. Assessments with developmental scales would allow us to compare growth for students at a variety of levels. Computerized assessment would allow students to take assessments at their current academic level instead of just their grade level.

Other adjustments will probably need to be made but if the early excitement around these models translates into success for students, it will be worth the effort.

-Betheny Gross and Mike Dearmond

6 Replies to “Teacher Evaluation and Innovation”

  1. A problem I see with using value-added assessments of “team teaching” (like your example above) is who to hold responsible for the VAM data results. For instance, if a team consisting of a teacher, teaching assistant and online tutor posts overall low value-added results, who gets blamed? Will the teacher be fired? (It wouldn’t surprise me, given today’s reform agenda.)

  2. I’ll ignore the jab at those of us who have committed our lives to educating poor kids as defenders of the status quo. (although if you add up all of the people in your shop, have they been to as many funerals as I have? How many hospital visits? how many times have you worried over unconscious kids not even knowing if they were breathing? and how many cars of gangbangers have you dealt with and how many times you, all put together, lost blood and ended up on the floor? How many times have you taken kids who were five to six years behind and got them on a trajectory where they have a future? How many serious problem students have you had come back, with a doctorate or a masters, thanking you?)

    My question is whether you will join with us in amicus briefs defending good and great teachers who are fired because value-added models can’t take into account the effects of poverty in neighborhood schools?

  3. Thanks for bringing attention to this timely and important issue. In its Race to the Top plan, Delaware promised to be the first state to create a teacher evaluation system with student-growth measurements. However, despite working with the teachers’ union and massive efforts, the state didn’t meet the deadline. Read our CEO’s thoughts on what happened, here: http://action.rodelfoundationde.org/acenter/post/Delawares-Waiver-Request-on-Educator-Evaluation-We-Must-Fulfill-our-Commitments.aspx.

  4. Teachers and their advocates have been saying these sorts of things for years. In addition to the problem areas presented in the post, the work of phys ed, music, special ed, foreign language, ESL, vocational ed, many high school subject areas and other specialty teachers is also difficult to measure. Value-added assessment as a part of teacher evaluations has to be given serious thought before being implemented, and then should only be a part of the process.

  5. Yes, Nancy, but in Colorado, for example, the legislature mandated that evaluation will be based in part (half) on assessment scores and then told the districts to think it through before implementing by deadline.

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