More states link teacher evaluation to test scores

Most states have strengthened oversight of teachers in the last two years and nearly half now tie teacher evaluations to student performance, according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

“We’ve seen a major policy shift away from [teacher] evaluations that tell us little about whether kids in a particular teacher’s classroom are learning, to evaluations designed to actually identify our most outstanding teachers and those who consistently underperform,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the council, which advocates judging teachers based on performance.

The administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition awarded grants to states that linked teacher evaluations to student test scores. “This year, Republican governors in Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and Michigan ushered in overhauls to teacher rating, compensation, bargaining rights and tenure,” adds the Wall Street Journal.

In Florida, tenure was eliminated. In Colorado, teachers now must get three positive ratings to earn tenure and can lose it after two bad ones. Several states, including Indiana and Michigan, did away with “last in, first out” union rules that resulted in districts laying off effective new teachers instead of ineffective tenured ones. Indiana and Tennessee passed merit-pay laws that base teacher pay primarily on classroom performance.

However, teachers’ unions are fighting the new policies, the report said.

States and school districts are contracting with both non-profit and for-profit groups to “design evaluations, train teachers and principals in how to use them, and set up online platforms to help sort all of the new data that schools will be collecting,” notes the Hechinger Report. Foundation money and the Obama administration’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top initiative is funding millions of dollars in contracts.


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  1. How are physical education, art, special education, foreign languages, vocational, and the myriad of other non-traditional-graded-classroom teachers – in other words, teachers not in grades 1-8 classrooms – being evaluated in those states?

  2. Ponderosa says:


    I wonder the same thing. I’m actually in the K-8 category, but even here I don’t see how they’d evaluate me using test scores. I teach 7th grade history. What test would they use? The state history test is administered in 4th and 8th grade. The 8th grade test covers material taught in 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

    I wonder if Arne Duncan has thought this through.

    In some ways I’d welcome being evaluated on test scores. I trust them more than I trust my malicious and unscrupulous principal.

  3. Dear Nancy
    Linking test scores with teacher performance, may not be true representative of a teacher’s real hardwork. Ask a parent how he/she manages his/her children. But it can be accorded weightage in overall evaluation.

  4. I’m not sure that linking test scores to a teacher’s performance would be a true representation of the teacher’s ability to teach their students. I think there are lots of contributing factors including parental behavior as well as other outside influences. I think age needs to be taken into consideration as well. Children in the lower grades are probably going to listen more to their teachers.

  5. Nancy: In Delaware, those subject area teachers will have to choose a group of students (# to be determined) who they “touch” on a daily basis … and then the student performance part of their evaluation will be based on — wait for it — the students’ math and English state test scores.

    Sounds “fair,” doesn’t it?

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      My first response to that was, “OMG, how stupid!”

      The second was that it may be diabolically clever. The administrators at many schools that are trying to raise their math and English test scores are telling teachers in all classes to include math and English in them. Of course, teachers resist. “This is a history course, not a math course.” However, if their pay–and retention–depend on these scores, they may be more likely to “get with the program.”

  6. Ponderosa says:

    The sad fact is that reading comprehension is a slow-growing plant, as E.D. Hirsch says, and depends on years of accumulating background knowledge. The actions of one teacher for one year cannot make a big dent in this ability. So the whole premise of this mode of teacher evaluation is fatally flawed.