Students’ Test Scores

So as to ensure that students acquire the highest quality of education and become the best they are meant to become, it is essential for a school to employ competent teachers. This is also important for schools wishing to make it in the best performing public schools list and acquire the federal government’s funding for top public schools. It is a known fact that students who are taught by competent teachers usually produce excellent results in their studies as opposed to those who have less effective teachers.  School administrations should thus ensure that qualified teachers are recruited and retained to ensure quality education. Systematic evaluation and development of teachers is vital in any academic set up. This can be carried out on the basis of their classroom performance, their students’ performance in the system’s standardized tests among other available criteria. Analyzing the various criteria leaves us with the question of whether or not the evaluations of teachers should rest on students’ test scores.

Evaluation of teachers based on students’ test scores has come to be known as the value added model (VAM). This criterion involves calculating students’ performance, giving special attention to any improvements in standardized tests and relying on the results obtained to evaluate a given teacher’s level of competence. This is then applied in deciding on whether to retain, reward or do away with the teacher. There have been two schools of thought as far as this criterion is concerned; those in support of it and those opposed to it. There are those who believe that a teacher’s effectiveness is measurable in terms of the test scores obtained by the students taught by him or her. Those opposed to this method are of the opinion that it is unfair unwise to use this criterion in evaluating the effectiveness of teachers. Therefore should the evaluations of teachers rest on students’ test scores or should they not?

It is factual that student learning is measurable by tests and hence how well a given teacher has taught his or her students.  This use of the value added model entails the use of the test scores obtained by students to analyze the improvement in performance of the individual students through the years in the various grades and checking the amount of value a given teacher added onto them.  In support of this criterion it can be noted that the impact a teacher has on students is normally great. Looking at the life of a student academically, while he may begin with average performance, the effectiveness of the teacher he is assigned to may move him to excellent performance or cause a drop in his performance level. In addition, in cases where incompetent teachers are in charge of a particular group of students, there will be laxity as far as academic coverage is concerned thus inability to catch up.

Though there may be groups of students as regards level of achievement; in terms of above average performers, low achievers and average students, the presence of an effective teacher in charge of such students might ensure the students go overboard in achieving their full potentials.  The above average achievers raise their level of achievement and the same is done by the low achievers and the average achievers. For any academic system that values student improvement in performance then the value added model should be embraced as the method for evaluating teachers. Apart from the teachers’ experience and the credentials they possess, the performance by the students they teach in standardized tests is really important. It is no wonder that the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) expressly states that students between grade three and eight should yearly be tested in the subject areas of mathematics and reading.

Those opposing this method of evaluating teachers’ performance have taken this stand basing on the challenges it presents and the unfair and unreliable nature of the outcome. It is claimed by those of this view that standardized tests should be put to the use they were intended for and not to be put to other alternative uses. The lack of consistency too makes this criterion unreliable. The instability of this method as shown by the irregular performances by students in tests in different years with the same effective teacher taking charge makes it unreliable. For example, a class may realize high performance this year, low performance in the next year and an improvement in the year that follows or a further drop in performance. This shows lots of inconsistencies.

Even if this mode of evaluation is used in evaluating teachers, when it comes to taking action such as lying off the ineffective teachers, there’s no evidential indication to show that they are the weakest of all the teachers. We can also not be sure that the teachers being removed are replaced by more competent ones and in addition to this it can not be proven that the teachers will get motivated to cause an improvement in students’ test scores when evaluated and awarded monetary rewards for the improvements. This leads us to the conclusion that the use of test scores to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness is only but a small portion of the whole comprehensive process of evaluation.  It has been established that there are several things that influence a student’s performance in tests. It is not only the influence of the teacher that is at play here but also such influences as the level of income of the family a student hails from, the level of support received from one’s family and the level of education of one’s parents.

It is also not appropriate to apply this criterion in evaluating teachers’ effectiveness as the tests would most often than not gauge one’s basic skills whereas teachers aim at achieving the laid down framework of academic benchmark. There’s thus a complete difference between what teachers are required to teach and what is measured in the tests. It is also very possible for certain teacher’s to doctor their teaching so that it is centered on the tests to be given. In such a case, those teachers who are committed to imparting students with the appropriate educational information will obtain a lower score in the evaluation as compared to those who put their focus on the tests. The notion that teachers are individually compensated so that it is seen that their performance is uniquely different from the other teachers’ performances seems to counter the very basis of proper instructional practice. This has put this evaluation method into sharp criticisms by those opposed to it.

In conclusion therefore, a more appropriate way that can ensure students acquire the best education and that fairness is exercised should be sought. This would ensure that ineffective teachers are weeded out of school systems and those who are competent retained and even rewarded. May be a few modifications to this criterion might be necessary; for example the length period for the evaluation process can be increased to cover about three to five years of individual data. Alternatively, for the evaluation process to be sound balancing of various aspects of students’ academic life might offer a much more accurate conclusion about the influence the teachers have on students and generally how this affects their level of achievement. Otherwise, just by looking at the students’ test scores and then evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness won’t give an accurate and reliable outcome.

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