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