Teachers walking down a hallway Photo courtesy of Ivan T

New York’s proposed reform on teacher evaluation policies is heading in the opposite direction of other states’. The legislation, which was approved in March and has until June 30 to be approved, will have the student performance on standardized tests account for one half of teacher evaluations. The effects of this will likely lead instructors in New York to narrow their classroom curriculums and focus on only teaching to the test.

While New York is only one of 30 states that require test scores to be a factor in teacher evaluations, they may soon attribute the highest weight in the country to them. Every state, with the exception of California, is implementing new teacher evaluation models between 2011 and 2019; nearly all are moving away from standardized test scores. In fact, most states are incorporating a number of holistic factors into their teacher evaluations including administrative reviews, lesson plan reviews, professional development, student and parent surveys, self-assessment surveys, and measures of student growth.

Many education policy experts believe the best way to incorporate student test scores into teacher evaluation is by using them to measure student growth. This “value-added model” compares student test scores to previous and peer evaluation. The “value-added model” model accurately determines the amount of progress as student has achieved in an academic year and how much can be attributed to their teacher.

The seminar Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project found that models heavily weighing standardized tests produces the least reliable results in teacher evaluation. While the study notes that standardized tests are useful for evaluating academic growth, they are ineffective at predicting performance on district or school-level tests which measure broader sets of skills.

While the MET project did not posit a recommendation for a single teacher evaluation policy to be used across the country, most states are moving towards more holistic and comprehensive systems. This ensures that teacher evaluations will be used to deliver constructive feedback and performance reviews instead of simply determining which contracts to renew.

While the rest of the country is moving towards more progressive models of teacher evaluation, New York seems poised to stay with the old system.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.