Evaluating Teacher Performance

| August 17, 2010

In keeping with the Obama administration’s emphasis on numbers to guide its education policy, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced his endorsement of publicly releasing data about teacher performance. Duncan’s endorsements come as many of the nation’s school districts are adopting value added measures: “a statistical approach that relies on standardized test scores to measure student learning.” The value added measure tracks how a student has been doing on standardized exams and their scores are used to evaluate their teachers.

The approach, coupled with Duncan’s endorsements, has been met with fierce criticism from teacher unions and policy pundits who argue the measure is based primarily on test scores, which ignores good teaching and leads to a narrow curriculum as teachers will focus on prepping for exams instead of teaching other course materials.  In his defense against critics, Secretary Duncan challenges them to note that the measure will highlight those teachers who are doing well in their respective classrooms. Opponents further argue the measure will highlight those teachers who need further professional development. This interesting Los Angeles Times article shed further light on the debate surrounding the value added measure.