There has been substantial evidence that – among many problems with the use of Value-Added Measurement – teachers of students who face many challenges are penalized (see The fundamental flaws of ‘value added’ teacher evaluation and The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation).

Now, a new study find that the same problem occurs in teacher observations (see Study finds flaws in teacher performance observations; Class Composition Can Bias English Teachers’ Observation Scores, Study Finds; and Classroom observations may hurt teachers more than they help, study says).

Since I’ve always had good experiences with being observed by my administrators (see The best kind of teacher evaluation), and have often heard from other educators with similar experiences, when I first heard about this study I figured it would be based on outside observers coming into classrooms who were unfamiliar with the students and the teacher. However, the data comes from the Gates MET project and it appears that they say “home” administrators and outside experts evaluated the teachers in the study and generally had similar assessments of teachers (see page 21 of the MET study).

Most teacher know that classes composed of students with high-needs are not going to look “as pretty” as classes with a different composition, and, based on this study, I guess I’ve just been naive to think that most administrators would know the same thing and would be able to account for that when doing their evaluations.

Another intriguing point in the study that doesn’t appear to be receiving the attention that I think it should is the authors’ recommendation about what to do about this problem. They seem to be suggesting that observers switch their focus to evaluating teacher inputs – the instructional actions that the teacher can control – instead of the student outputs and outcomes.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the articles about the report:


Ben Spielberg, along with Ted Appel (my former principal) have written and spoken a lot about this idea of focusing on teacher inputs instead of student outcomes for teacher evaluation purposes. You can find links to my posts and radio shows about them here.

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