The Brookings Institute study came up with a remarkable observance, that will come as no surprise to most…..

  • For one, the researchers found a strong statistical link between teachers’ observation scores and the achievement level test scores of the students they instructed.
  • Two, the report takes aim at evaluation systems that use a “school-wide” value-added measure, in which all teachers are judged in part on the progress of the school as a whole.  Good schools inflated mediocre teachers; bad schools deflated excellent teachers.
  • Three:  Observers tended to give the best marks to teachers whose incoming students were high performing, while those teachers working with academically struggling students were penalized, according to an analysis of thousands of observation scores.

This comes particularly as we in Delaware rewrite and vote on a House Bill  linking evaluations with test scores…

The Brookings finding discovered that really great phenomenal teachers get penalized for teaching students with low income status, and poor and mediocre teachers get high marks for teaching incoming students who are exceptionally gifted…  It appears that among others, one of the things standardized test scores can’t judge, is how good a teacher is, or isn’t!

We have all heard problems with Value Added Tests before.  All concern in the past, was mostly centered upon the test scores.  In theory that was to be balanced by classroom observation.  What this study breaks into the open, is that now, simply based on data of many subjective teacher evaluations, those class room evaluations are prejudiced depending upon the test scores. There is no offsetting value….

That means even the classroom evaluation is flawed, because of test scores.

This study tended to show that principals were the worst culprit, that when impartial outside observers came in to judge the classroom experience based on a rubric, they were much more honest and correct in their evaluations.

Even the best principal, if being scolded for his school’s low scores, walking in upon one of the teachers whose classroom is full of the sort of students who are guilty of lowering that school’s scores, in this situation, even the best principal, perhaps in the course of trying to move the needle for his school, will unfairly judge that teacher…. simply because of what is at stake…

So it appears that not only are high stakes testings unreliable, the counterbalance of classroom observation is also unreliable, simply because of the human nature to make those observations fit in hand with the test scores….  We can all put ourselves in that principal’s shoes:  “The test scores out of this class are so bad,  I can’t say you are a great teacher, even if you are; I’ll get laughed out of my job!”  Now… my brain is fuzzy.  Where have I heard that Delaware principals were not being tough enough on their evaluations because the actual classroom teachers ratings did not jive with the secret recipe formulated test scores?  Hmmm.  I can’t remember… The knuckleheads all sound alike this late in the legislative session…..

The big answer to solving this dilemma, the one that will get us moving forward again, is for us to continue using the tests to help children, but use that critical mass of data only to discover their weaknesses and work to strengthen those areas in them… Not fire, nor demote, nor put on parking duty, any teacher who has the misfortune to have lower income students incoming into her class……..