It’s Okay to Evaluate Teachers Using Test Scores as Long as the Better Teachers Get More Pay

Using student test scores as part of a teacher’s job evaluation while not ideal is at least a step in the right direction towards shattering the outmoded concept that all teachers are the same.

The debate shouldn’t center on whether teachers should be evaluated using test score results.  Rather, the conversation needs to involve completely rethinking the way teachers are compensated.

Testing students at the start of the year, then again at the end, provides data that is quick but insignificant. Test score results by themselves mean little in terms of a teacher’s abilities.

It’s not so easy to evaluate how well a teacher communicates with her students, how clearly and coherently she answers student questions, how thoughtfully designed her assignments are, or how patiently she works with individual students.

However, if test scores are going to be used to determine which teachers are doing a better job of teaching, then what must follow is an acknowledgement that certain teachers are better than others.  And, if that is so (and who would argue with such logic), then those more effective teachers need to get paid higher salaries, while ineffective teachers receive less or, without further improvement, get fired.

Paying teachers for the quality of their work is a foreign concept in the teaching profession. When a teacher is observed by an administrator, the visit is carefully pre-arranged at a time of day when the teacher can control as much of the lesson as possible knowing her superior will be present.  What often happens is a highly rehearsed and unrealistic picture of what goes on in that classroom day in and day out.

All teachers get paid the same regardless of the type of job they do.

Quality is not acknowledged, applauded, spotlighted nor rewarded.

Because the system has low expectations of teachers, teachers, in turn, have low expectations of themselves as workers and, not surprisingly, this domino effect translates to the low expectations they have of their students.

The very forms that are used to evaluate teachers clearly show that quality is not part of the evaluation equation. On the evaluation form are listed several teacher behaviors each with two boxes for an administrator to check off: meets standards or does not meet standards. Notice the absence of a third option “exceeds standards.”

So why should teachers desire to earn higher than average marks when they are not expected to be that good?

Thankfully, a few forward-thinking school districts and states including Denver, Houston, and Florida, have what’s commonly called a performance-pay system, often overriding union’s objections, that takes into account student test scores and pays better teachers more money.

One study found that when teachers get paid according to their performance, their students’ performance increases.  In other words, money does motivate people to work harder. Who would have thought?

Excellence in public schools is a random occurrence. There’s nothing in the system to guarantee powerful instructors.  In this era of accountability there is none where it really counts and that is with the teacher in the classroom.

Give principals the power to fire bad teachers.  Each day an incompetent teacher is allowed to be in the same room with young people is another day of learning permanently lost.

The solution to many of public education’s problems is not a new reading program, not a new computer, and certainly not more testing.  The solution is to have higher quality teachers by providing meaningful feedback and paying them well for good work.

People will work harder if their jobs are on the line.  Teachers need to trade job security for professional integrity and join the rest of the American workforce and embrace with open arms the right to be fired and the right to be rewarded.

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