How Do You Measure Teacher Effectiveness: 7 Challenges

I can’t believe when I go in to teach tomorrow it will be December already. The Dec/Jan issue of Ed. Leadership focuses on “The Effective Educator” and its first article, “Measuring Effectiveness: What Will it Take?” focuses on several challenges associated with trying to measure effective educators. Given all the public school incentives, there are many trying to quantify what an effective teacher looks like.

Challenge 1: The Limits of Student Assessment Data

  • Using this data as a measurement of teacher success is relatively untested as a high-stakes measure
  • Testing experts like Popham (2007) say that standardized tests “may not accurately reflect the quality of instruction specifically provided to promote students’ mastery of what is being assessed.” For example, we spend time in our classes for social/emotional learning, social studies, not to mention specialist subjects like art and music that are not on elementary standardized tests. Should kids be deprived of PE or recess in order to get more math or  reading instruction time? Some schools feel pressured enough to do that.
  • “Too many standardized tests do not demonstrate whether a teacher’s instruction had an effect on the students’ performance.”

Challenge 2: Many Untested Subjects

  • Are we going to measure the effectiveness of a second language teacher based on ERB math scores? I hope not – even though there is a good chance foreign language instruction increases vocabulary scores.

Challenge 3: Quality of Evaluators

  • How trained are teacher evaluators to actually measure teacher performance based on student success?
  • The prediction is that evaluator training will go up in many states.

Challenge 4: Individual vs. Team-Based Accountability

  • Who is evaluated for a child who gets learning support from another teacher in addition to their classroom teacher?
  • When I team up with my colleagues and plan a unit and teach it collaboratively, how does one measure that?

Challenge 5: What Else Matters?

  • I’ve mentioned previously, that some kinds of learning support important values, but don’t necessarily increase test scores.

Challenge 6: Working Conditions

  • I work in a great facility, but other things to take into consideration is: time available to each teacher, collaboration, technology equity, the particular group of students, physical spaces, budgets, etc.

Challenge  7: Engaging All Stakeholders

  • We’ve come a long way to involve students in their own assessments, are we doing the same with teachers. Are parents, teachers, students, trustees, and administrators all part of the discussion? According to the article they should be.

At this point, it is really difficult to determine a teacher’s effectiveness. Yet, one knows it when one sees it. There are groups trying to make it more tangible and scientific. They are trying to “shift the model from the sole unit of authority and responsibility to next-generation systems that recognize the importance of professional collaboration, transparent practice, reflective and collective inquiry, and joint accountability.”



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