Thanks to Jack Schneider, I learned about a post by Ben Spielberg titled The Problem with Outcome-Oriented Evaluations.

It’s a great piece on teacher evaluation, and reflects important points that are seldom raised in discussions on the topic. He described the value of evaluating inputs, as opposed to outputs. In other words, most teacher evaluation discussion is focused on measuring student outcomes. But, as Ben points out, we often have far less control over those outcomes than is believed.

Interestingly, Ted Appel, the principal at our school, and I have been working on an article about this very same point.

With research showing that teachers really have so little impact on student achievement (see The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement), how accurate can test scores be to assess a teachers effectiveness?

What Ben (and Ted and I) suggest instead is to identify a list of best teaching practices (and, as Ben mentions, being able to incorporate enough space for individual teaching styles) and evaluate teachers on if they are implementing them.

Here’s an excerpt from Ben’s post:


I am regularly frustrated by seeing teacher evaluation rubrics, including the much-ballyhooed one from The New Teacher Project, that are entirely focused on what students are doing, and little on actions taken by the teachers.

Here is a comment from Ted about Ben’s post on a related and critical point:

As the drumbeat for using outcome data as part of teacher evaluation becomes louder and more prevalent, the research on its’ irrelevance as a measure of teacher quality couldn’t be more clear. As the article by Ben Spielberg points out, the correlation between test scores and good teaching does not exist. What Ben does not point out is that even when school systems use test scores as “only a part” of a holistic evaluation, it infects the entire process as it becomes the piece is most easily and simplistically viewed by the public and media. The result is a perverse incentive to find the easiest route to better outcome scores, often at the expense of the students most in need of great teaching input.

Ted’s comment is particularly timely in light of our local union and District’s announcement today that we are beginning a process to develop a new teacher evaluation system.

Both Ted and I have previously written about the dangers of including any standardized test scores in a multiple-measure system. There are many, including the fact that it quickly becomes the “tail that wags the dog.”

You can see our thoughts about this at two previous posts:

The Problem With Including Standardized Test Results As Part Of “Multiple Measures” For Teacher Evaluation

How Our Principal Thinks Using Test Scores To Evaluate Teachers Will Hurt Students

What do you think?

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.