Fascinating. This research–via Congerjan in Plurk–seems to back up the idea that poor students are so because of a variety of factors beyond the teachers’ control. Holding the teacher more accountable for student progress through test scores is ineffective because it fails to take into account those other factors.

In such school districts, the mantra is “The other factors don’t matter. Teach as if they didn’t exist.” While I am heartened by this “go for it” approach, I am also questioning its value given the research study cited below. . .it amounts to ignoring reality. The real solution is more complex, with a collaborative of entities working to address the factors that limit students rather than heaping the entire blame on teachers’ inability to fill the void of the collaborative.

One person doing the work of a multitude of help agencies to meet students needs.

Education Research Report: Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers:

Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, according to a new Economic Policy Institute report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.

“If new laws or policies specifically require that teachers be fired if their students’ test scores do not rise by a certain amount, then more teachers might well be terminated than is now the case,” the authors state.
“But there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones.”

The EPI paper finds that student test scores, even with value-added modeling, cannot fully account for a wide range of factors such as students’ background and the “learning loss” that often occurs over the summer. In fact, while students overall lose an average of about one month in reading achievement over the summer, lower-income students lose significantly more

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Some other findings that jumped out at me:

  1. Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise.
  2. …a teacher who appears to be very ineffective in one year might have a dramatically different result the following year. The same dramatic fluctuations were found for teachers ranked at the bottom in the first year of analysis. This runs counter to most people’s notions that the true quality of a teacher is likely to change very little over time and raises questions about whether what is measured is largely a “teacher effect” or the effect of a wide variety of other factors.
  3. A number of factors have been found to have strong influences on student learning gains, aside from the teachers to
    whom their scores would be attached. These include the influences of students’ other teachers—both previous teachers
    and, in secondary schools, current teachers of other subjects—as well as tutors or instructional specialists, who have been found often to have very large influences on achievement gains. These factors also include school conditions—such as the quality of curriculum materials, specialist or tutoring supports, class size, and other factors that affect learning.
  4. Schools that have adopted pull-out, team teaching, or block scheduling practices will only inaccurately be able to isolate
    individual teacher “effects” for evaluation, pay, or disciplinary purposes.
  5. Student test score gains are also strongly influenced by school attendance and a variety of out-of-school learning
    experiences at home, with peers, at museums and libraries, in summer programs, on-line, and in the community.
  6. Well-educated and supportive parents can help their children with homework and secure a wide variety of other advantages
    for them. Other children have parents who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to support their learning academically.
  7. Student test score gains are also influenced by family resources, student health, family mobility, and the influence of
    neighborhood peers and of classmates who may be relatively more advantaged or disadvantaged.
  8. A research summary concludes that while students
    overall lose an average of about one month in reading achievement over the summer, lower-income students lose signifi-cantly more, and middle-income students may actually gain in reading proficiency over the summer, creating a widening achievement gap. Indeed, researchers have found that three-fourths of schools identified as being in the bottom 20% of all schools, based on the scores of students during the school year, would not be so identified if differences in learning outside of school were taken into account. Similar conclusions apply to the bottom 5% of all schools.
  9. Research shows that an excessive focus on basic math and reading scores can lead to narrowing and over-simplifying the curriculum to only the subjects and formats that are tested, reducing the attention to science, history, the arts, civics, and foreign language, as well as to writing, research, and more complex problem-solving tasks.
  10. Basing teacher evaluation primarily on student test scores
    does not accurately distinguish more from less effective
    teachers because even relatively sophisticated approaches
    cannot adequately address the full range of statistical
    problems that arise in estimating a teacher’s effectiveness.
  11. Teachers who have chosen to teach in schools serving
    more affluent students may appear to be more effective
    simply because they have students with more home and
    school supports for their prior and current learning,
    and not because they are better teachers.
  12. Some policy makers assert that it should be easier for
    students at the bottom of the achievement distribution to
    make gains because they have more of a gap to overcome.
    This assumption is not confirmed by research.
  13. Using test scores to evaluate teachers unfairly disadvantages teachers of the neediest students. Because of the inability of value-added methods to fully account for the differences in student characteristics and in school supports, as well as the effects of summer learning loss, teachers who teach students with the greatest educational needs will appear to be less effective than they are. This could lead to the inappropriate dismissal of teachers of low-income and minority students, as well as of students with special
    educational needs.

Is it time for teachers in socio-economically poor districts where neediest students reside to move to charter and more affluent districts where students enjoy more support from home and school?

The message is clear…either abandon the inner city, leaving students to survive on their own so that you may be judged effective teacher in a rich district, or choose not to leave and look forward to abuse from administrators who choose to base evaluations on test scores.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure