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Argument rages on over use of test scores to rate teachers

September 3, 2010

The Economic Policy Institute weighs in against teacher evaluations based 50% or more on student test scores in this new report. Rhode Island plans to use part of its $75-million “Race to the Top” grant to develop such evaluations.

According to the analysis, current statistical methods used to calculate the effect of a single teacher have weaknesses including the inability to account for other factors that affect student success. The report also points to the lessons of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, saying that experiment in rating schools by test scores has done little to narrow the achievement gap for minority and low-income students.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt writes about the controversy in this week’s New York Times Magazine. His conclusion: so-called “value-added” measures may help identify the best and the worst teachers even if they do little to distinguish between those in the middle of the pack. Furthermore, he writes that measuring students’ skill and knowledge is part of what is needed to improve public schools, though it may be a difficult pill for many teachers to swallow.

You may want to keep that in mind if you ever get a chance to look at a list of teachers and their value-added scores. Some teachers, no doubt, are being done a disservice. Then again, so were a whole lot of students.

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