Amidst the changing backdrop of education reform, the role of the teacher is constantly evolving. As such, the evaluation systems upon which these teachers are measured are under examination. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates that effective teaching be rooted in academic results for students, and recent reports show that the nation is adopting this mindset quickly. Five years ago, 35 states did not require teacher evaluations to include student learning measures. Today, only six states have yet to add the measure as a future policy.
Since 2007, researchers in education policy have moved toward growth models to assess teacher and program effectiveness because “these statistical tools present a more complete picture of school performance.”
Adopting the Right Growth Measures
The value-added model (VAM) and the use of student learning objectives (SLOs) have emerged as proven analytical frameworks to measure student growth. The decision to implement one of these types of alternative measures for assessing teacher effectiveness varies based on district needs and data capabilities, finds a NCEE report profiling early-adopting districts. Districts using alternative assessment-based VAMs choose to take advantage of existing assessments, while those using SLOs select them as a teacher-guided method of assessing student growth.
This model to measuring student learning growth is unique because it analyzes changes in students’ performance over time. VAMs use the results of end-of-course assessments or commercially available tests in statistical models. Students’ actual scores are compared to their predicted scores, which are typically determined by the average score of comparable students in previous years. Therefore, their overall growth (either positive or negative) is affected by their expected growth.
The value-added model requires that schools and districts collect extensive student and teacher data over many years, making it somewhat complex to implement. Despite the considerable criticisms of VAMs, this framework is likely to endure for the foreseeable future.
Student Learning Objectives
Due to the implementation of student growth‐based evaluation standards, student learning objectives have also become increasingly popular. This model includes growth metrics for grades and subjects for which state or commercial tests are not available. As such, several states and individual districts have recognized SLOs to be a valuable tool for measuring student growth in both tested and non‐tested subjects.
SLOs are determined by individual teachers, approved by principals, and used in evaluations that do not involve sophisticated statistical modeling. Thus, SLOs allow teachers, evaluators, and principals to work together in establishing the learning outcomes and performance factors that should be weighed in the educator evaluation process.
In order to ease potential teacher anxiety for adopting SLOs, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) suggests introducing the objectives as a tool for planning and professional development before attaching them to “high‐stakes evaluations.” This allows teachers and administrators to begin training and familiarizing themselves with creating SLOs and tracking data. Slow teacher implementation also mitigates issues that may occur when teachers feel pressured or unprepared to meet their goals, such as grade inflation and artificially low SLO targets.
Determining the Best Evaluation Approach for Your Schools and Your Teachers
There are, of course, numerous challenges and benefits to each both the VAM and SLO frameworks. For one, SLOs can be used for teacher evaluation in any grade or subject. However, teachers and principals must make substantial efforts to implement the method – and ensuring consistency is challenging. Conversely, VAMs applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments create consistent, districtwide measures, yet generally require technical support from an outside provider.
Regardless of the model implemented, teacher evaluation data (when captured and analyzed effectively) can inform tenure decisions, improve instruction, enhance teacher preparation practices, and help to assign effective teachers to work with the students who need them most. Yet, it is clear difficulties arise in developing educator assessments that incorporate student growth measures while also exhibiting fair and objective administrative techniques. Following best practices when developing and implementing a right-fit, growth-oriented teacher evaluation model can help K-12 administrators, state boards of education, and districts effectively navigate the challenges that permeate this hot-button reform issue.
Want to investigate best practices for the inclusion of student growth measures in teacher evaluations? Complete the form below to download Hanover Research’s free report, Student Growth Measures in Teacher Evaluations.