Top Education Experts Raise Caution on Teacher Evaluations

By Kevin Hart

Evaluating teachers based on students’ standardized test scores may be en vogue, but a panel of America’s leading education experts is warning that the process is badly flawed and is likely to result in misguided personnel decisions that could harm public education.

Ten prominent education scholars have drafted a policy letter on behalf of the Economic Policy Institute – and are inviting those who care about public education to sign it – warning of the perils of linking teacher evaluations to standardized test scores.

The authors are a “who’s who” of leading researchers in the field of education, including Eva L. Baker, a UCLA professor and co-director of the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing; Paul Barton, former director of the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service; Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; education historian and New York University Professor Diane Ravitch; and several other prominent figures.

“Too many policymakers have recently adopted the misguided belief that improvements in students’ scores on standardized tests in mathematics and reading can be heavily relied upon to evaluate, reward, and remove the teachers of these tested students,” the authors write. “However, even the most sophisticated use of test scores, value added modeling (VAM), is a flawed and inaccurate way to judge whether teachers are effective or ineffective.”

The authors warn that heavy use of value-added modeling in teacher evaluation will “misidentify large numbers of both effective and ineffective teachers,” and cite recent research that concluded that value-added modeling was too inaccurate to be used as a primary means for evaluating teachers.

“Adopting an invalid teacher evaluation system and tying it to rewards and sanctions is likely to lead to inaccurate personnel decisions and to demoralize teachers, causing talented teachers to avoid high-needs students and schools, or to leave the profession entirely, and discouraging potentially effective teachers from entering it. Educational outcomes will suffer as a consequence,” the authors write.

EPI is encouraging educators and citizens who are concerned about the future direction of public education to sign the letter and to encourage their friends to do the same. To add your name to the list of signatories, click here.