Standardized Tests and Teacher Accountability — The Research

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) hosted a symposium on January 19 that was sponsored by NJ Spotlight, Education Law Center, Garden State Coalition of Schools, Newark Teachers Union, N.J. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, N.J. Association of School Administrators, N.J. Center for Teaching & Learning, N.J. Education Association, N.J. Policy Perspective, N.J. Principals & Supervisors Association, N.J. School Boards Association, and the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. This video presentation was underwritten by the NJEA.

Value-Added Models as a Tool for Assessing Teachers

Evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students is a popular idea in the current education reform debate. But is it a good idea? This symposium looked at the facts that surround the use of Value-Added Models (VAM) in teacher accountability systems, including decisions about the evaluation, retention, and pay of teachers.

“An Overemphasis on Teachers,” Richard Rothstein, research associate, Economic Policy Institute
Rothstein, a former New York Times national education columnist, discusses the false narrative about public education — especially urban schools — that currently exists. Rothstein maintains that many education reform proposals, especially those that focus on teacher accountability, are based on a misinterpretation and misuse of data. He stresses the direct correlation between poverty and educational failure. Read Rothstein’s essay, “An Overemphasis on Teachers.”

Panel Moderator Howard Wainer, distinguished research scientist, National Board of Medical Examiners
Dr. Wainer reviews the basic purposes of standardized testing, provides an overview of the problems associated with VAM, and discusses the importance of conducting valid studies of VAM before implementing it in New Jersey.

Panelist Henry Braun, Boisi professor of education and public policy, Boston College
Dr. Braun explains that while different value-added models attempt to level the playing field, various technical and methodological problems exist when used to evaluate teachers. However, VAM can be used to improve education at broader levels (curricula, standards, schools, etc.). Read Braun’s report, “Using Student Progress to Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models.”

Panelist Sean P. Corcoran, assistant professor, New York University, Steinhardt School of Education
Dr. Corcoran, an economist, speaks to VAM’s methodological concerns that can’t be corrected, why VAM doesn’t allow evaluators to differentiate among teachers, and how policymakers should consider VAM when making spending decisions. Read Corcoran’s policy paper, “Can Teachers be Evaluated by their Students’ Test Scores?

Panelist Arthur E. Wise, president emeritus, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
Dr. Wise addresses teacher qualifications, the shortcomings of the current system of teacher evaluation, the promising models of teacher evaluation that have improved outcomes, and why VAM might retard educational progress in the U.S.

“Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: Where Do We Go From Here?” Laura Goe, research scientist,Performance Research Group, Educational Testing Service
The ultimate goal of educator evaluation should be to improve teaching and learning, says Dr. Goe, who identifies those measures that do help teachers improve their practices. Read Goe, et. al’s “A Practical Guide to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness.”