Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

In this photo taken Sept. 1, 2011, Jennifer Mojica works with students in her math class at Holmes Elementary School in Miami. In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami's gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students' reading and math scores.  - (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

In this photo taken Sept. 1, 2011, Jennifer Mojica works with students in her math class at Holmes Elementary School in Miami. In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami's gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students' reading and math scores.

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

A new study shows that having a high-quality teacher even for one year can have a measurable long-term impact on a student's career. Diane and her guests discuss how best to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Most everyone agrees that having a great teacher matters. A recent study by economists at Harvard and Columbia Universities answers the question of just how much. It found having a good teacher may be worth thousands of dollars in extra income over a student’s lifetime. Determining how to measure teacher performance has become a national debate. Some say evaluating teachers primarily based on test scores is unfair and not in the best interest of students. Others say it’s a great incentive and rewards the best teachers. Diane and her guests discuss how best to determine teacher effectiveness.

Guests

Thomas Toch

Senior Fellow, Director of Washington Office, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Jonah Rockoff

Professor of Business, Columbia Business School. Co-author of study titled, "The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood."

Jason Kamras

Chief of Human Capital, Washington, D.C. Public Schools

Stephanie Black

Former public school teacher

Program Highlights

Results of a recent study found that having just one high-quality teacher in elementary or middle school can improve a student's quality of life for years to come. But how can we measure teacher effectiveness? Are standardized tests the only answer? A panel of education experts discusses different approaches to educational assessments and improving the U.S. public education system.

Evaluating Teachers

"It's not clear though that all of the attributes that we seek in teachers are captured in a basic skills test score, for example, the ability to teach kids to think critically, to reason analytically," Toch said. "The other thing these test scores don't capture is the ability of teachers to teach the intangibles like tenacity and resilience, what researchers today are calling 'learned optimism' which is particularly important for disadvantaged students who don't come to school from backgrounds where education is assumed to be important, where it is in fact a struggle to be successful in school."

Improving The Tests

Some suggest that if we're not currently testing the things we really care about, we should be getting using - or making - better tests. Rockoff said that "value-added" evaluations attempt to measure how well teachers are performing in the classroom in a new way. Using vale-added parameters, students could conceivably still fail a standardized test, but if the class as a whole show tremendous improvement from the previous to current year, the teacher could be identified as a high value-added teacher. "It's an important development because in our efforts to evaluate teachers, which has traditionally been done very superficially in America public education, this allows us to look at what matters most, student achievement," Toch said.

Teacher-Led Cheating

USA Today recently did an investigation which found high erasure rates in some schools on standardized tests, indicating possible instances where teachers manipulated students' scores. "It's unfortunate, because it's cheating kids to a large degree," Toch said. In D.C. public schools, Kamras said they take the very rare indications of teacher-led cheating very seriously, but that he believes in the inherent morality of the staff. "The overwhelming majority are working hard every single day playing by the rules to do great things for kids. And I think that's what we need to remember when we talk about these kinds of things," he said.

Challenges From A Teacher's Perspective

A caller, Stephanie Black, spoke to Diane about her experiences teaching in public schools from 2007 to 2011. Ms. Black left teaching (and is now a math tutor) because she didn't feel that the extreme focus on test scores was preventing her from becoming a better teacher. Ms. Black said she feels attention to teacher training is very important. "I think we need to move away from this idea that the only way to decide if a teacher is great is to use a standardized test," Ms. Black said.

You can read the [full transcript here]
(http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-02-09/evaluating-teacher-effectiveness/transcript).

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