High-stakes teacher evaluations may not help

High-stakes teacher evaluations may not help

(N.Y.) High-stakes teacher evaluations have not been shown to improve student achievement and may even be detrimental to student success, according to a recent study.

Researcher Alyson Lavigne, an assistant professor of curriculum studies at Roosevelt University, said that even when highly-reliable and valid measures are implemented and teacher retention is based on effectiveness instead of seniority, results may be dismal.

“Even if basic requirements and assumptions are met, gains in student achievement may be short-lived, insignificant, or practically meaningless,” Lavigne wrote. “The possible unintended consequences could result in worse, rather than better, student achievement outcomes and increase the gap in opportunity to learn for students attending the most and least affluent schools.”

Prompted by federal grants and No Child Left Behind waiver exceptions, a large majority of states have battled with the complexities of adopting new college and career ready standards while also overhauling teacher evaluation systems in order to include student test scores. Critics argued that it was unfair to base teacher salary or job security on student scores which were expected to be lower due to the new tests.

Specifically, Race to the Top winners must consider teacher evaluations when making decisions regarding professional development, compensation, promotions, tenure and dismissal. A similar demand has been made on states that received waivers from key requirements called for under NCLB.

Supporters of high stakes evaluations say they make it easier to remove ineffective teachers, reward effective ones, and identify and support those who are struggling, thereby creating a better learning environment for students.

According to the study’s author, however, unintended consequences in areas including teacher attrition, retention, stress, morale and job satisfaction arise from the use of such evaluations despite the good intentions when considering them.

As part of a natural pattern, effective teachers will likely choose to remain while ineffective ones will drop out of the profession without being pushed out through a tough evaluation process. However, even effective teachers are more likely to leave struggling schools when graded on a value-added scoring model. This grading , Lavigne wrote, will continue to adversly affect student achievement.

High-stakes evaluations for beginning teachers, many of whom are likely to rate poorly during the early stages of their career as they find their footing in the classroom, may factor into increased turnover rates especially in the neediest classrooms.

“The negative unintended effects of these consequences will disproportionately affect schools that struggle the most to attract and retain teachers, schools that serve a larger percentage of minority students and students in poverty,” Lavigne wrote.

“Unfortunately, all of these potential negative consequences also subsequently may make teaching a less attractive field,” she continued, noting that the cost of constantly replacing teachers who quit would present another burden for schools.

Until evidence suggests that high-stakes evaluations do boost student achievement and create a more effective teaching workforce without at least reducing the unintended consequences that come with them, Lavigne concludes that evaluations should not be high-stakes.

Thus far, she wrote, the goal of such evaluations only appears to be undermined by unintended outcomes that could hinder student growth rather than support achievement.

The study was published by Teachers College, Columbia University.

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