Teacher Evaluation Using Standardized Tests

It seems incomprehensible that educational leaders continue to allow political agencies (government) to manipulate school districts. I am referring to the national debate of requiring teachers to be evaluated based on student performance on standardized test scores. 

The Obama administration has long sought to make “value-added” scores part of teacher evaluations. It requires that states seeking federal stimulus aid get rid of legal barriers that would prohibit tying the scores to teacher pay and retention. With this federal manipulation, school districts around the country are revamping the way teachers are evaluated—with many using student test scores as one measure of effectiveness.

The Los Angeles Times reported today (June 1, 2012) that one group in favor of this approach would allow such scores to account for no more than 25% of evaluation after two years. The approach would take into account a student’s English language ability and only count if the curriculum matched the tested material, if the student sample would be statistically significant, and if the student attended the teacher’s class at least 85% of the time. In addition, the school’s overall growth in student performance could be used instead of the teacher’s individual score if it was higher during the first two years.

For anyone who requires reliability and validity in measurement,  this approach seems ludicrous. In contrast to the natural sciences, every measurement instrument in the social sciences is SUBJECTIVE. We succumb to the illusion that only that which can be quantified can be true or valid.

I am not against accountability, but I am against those instruments that are not valid or reliable. As W. Edwards Deming (the international expert who brought both improved quality and lower costs to the workplace) said, “THE MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION CANNOT BE MEASURED. THE VARIABLES ARE TOO GREAT.” But in the myriad of proposals tying teacher performance to standardized testing, validity and reliability are totally ignored.

Using standardized test scores (1) to evaluate student learning and (2) to evaluate teaching will inevitably be added to the list of counterproductive approaches.