Friday, October 22, 2010

Problems with using student test scores

October 22, 2010
Dear Colleague:
It is encouraging that there has been increased attention paid to improving the educational achievement of students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it is unfortunate that much of the new policy discussion has focused on the mistaken belief that educational outcomes can be significantly improved by heavy reliance upon students' scores on standardized tests in mathematics and reading to evaluate, reward, and remove the teachers of these tested students.  We have recently co-authored a paper, Problems With the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, which shows that even the most sophisticated use of test scores, called value added modeling (VAM), is a flawed and inaccurate way to judge whether teachers are effective or ineffective.
Adopting an invalid teacher evaluation system and tying it to rewards and sanctions is likely to lead to inaccurate personnel decisions, while also demoralizing teachers. Such a flawed system could lead talented teachers to avoid high-needs students and schools, or to leave the profession entirely, and discourage potentially effective teachers from pursuing careers in education. Moreover, heavy reliance on basic math and reading scores to evaluate teachers will further narrow and over-simplify the curriculum to focus only on the subjects, topics, and formats that are tested. We believe that the evidence shows that educational outcomes will suffer if policymakers establish systems of teacher evaluation, tenure and pay which rely heavily on student test scores.

We are writing to invite you to sign a statement opposing this approach by going to We have posted the statement and listed resource material that provides the research basis for the statement. We also urge you to encourage others to sign the statement. We will publish the signatories on the EPI website and elsewhere.
If you agree with our approach, please add your signature to this statement as soon as possible to ensure that your name is included among the signers.  The deadline for signatures is November 19, 2010.
We hope you will join with us in this very important effort to improve the educational outcomes of students, especially disadvantaged students who will be most harmed by these misguided policies.
Thank you for your help.
Eva L. Baker
Paul E. Barton
Linda Darling-Hammond
Edward Haertel
Helen F. Ladd
Robert L. Linn
Diane Ravitch
Richard Rothstein
Richard J. Shavelson
Lorrie A. Shepard

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