Should teacher evaluations include measures of student achievement?

House Bill 90 would prohibit the use of “local final examinations or an analysis of student work process to assess teacher performance and professional growth as part of the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System.”  This provision would complement the decoupling of state test scores from teacher evaluations that the N.C. State Board of Education initiated last year.

But is it a good idea to remove measures of student achievement from the teacher evaluation instrument?

An article published in the American Journal of Education last month found that it may matter for reading achievement but little else.  “The Performance Cycle: The Association between Student Achievement and State Policies Tying Together Teacher Performance, Student Achievement, and Accountability” examined performance among states, including North Carolina, that had a student performance component in their teacher evaluation systems between 2007 and 2013. University of Minnesota researchers Nicola Alexander, Sung Tae Jang, and Shipi Kankane concluded,

Including student performance in state teacher evaluation policies is modestly associated with higher reading achievement but had no significant association with math achievement. Typically, black and Hispanic students did not experience the policy differently from their white peers. Disparities between white and black learners and between white and Hispanic students remained, signaling that these accountability policies did not eliminate racial disparities in the system.

One important limitation of the study, acknowledged by the authors, is that it did not assess whether test scores had any consequences for teachers.  If states used test scores in teacher evaluations for informational purposes only, there would have been no mechanism or incentive to replace struggling teachers with better ones.At this point, however, it appears that the State Board of Education, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and members of the state legislature made the right call.

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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