Forum: Teachers and Administrators Call for Evaluation Reform

By Cohen, Sheila | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), February 11, 2016 | Go to article overview

Forum: Teachers and Administrators Call for Evaluation Reform


Cohen, Sheila, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


The recent release of evaluation ratings for nearly 40,000 teachers confirms two points: first, teachers across Connecticut are doing an excellent job; and second, the new evaluation system consumes too much time and needs improvement.

Teachers and administrators agree that the current evaluation system is too bureaucratic. Mandating excessive data collection does not translate into higher standards or improved student learning. There is good news, however. Federal evaluation mandates were recently eliminated -- opening the door for Connecticut to devise a system that best serves our students and teachers.

Students, parents, and teachers deserve an effective strategy for teacher evaluation that: 1) is based on reliable, valid, classroom- based measures instead of a single test score, 2) promotes academic growth and respects the potential of each student, 3) recognizes a teacher's desire for continuous improvement, and 4) does not discriminate against students in high poverty communities or discourage the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers in those communities.

Standardized test scores typically do a good job of revealing inequities based on income and lack of access to computers -- the higher the family income, the higher the test score. The same tests fail, however, to provide an accurate measure of student growth in the classroom. Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University and author of "Getting Teacher Evaluation Right," has said that such tests do a poor job of "disentangling teacher effects" from home conditions and educational enrichment outside the classroom, and school conditions such as curriculum quality, materials, class size, and administrative support.

Recent research in Maryland, Illinois, and at the National Center for Education Statistics has also shown that standardized tests create a significant technology gap for students in high poverty communities--students receive lower scores on computer-based tests than they receive using pencil and paper. This is unacceptable discrimination against students who have less experience with computers, and further undercuts the reliability of the test scores.

Christopher Emdin, professor of science and associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said that using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is "dangerous" and punishes dedicated teachers in the schools where they are needed most. …

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