April 16, 2012
After almost a year of back and forth, the New York state education Department and state teachers unions finally came to an agreement in February over how to evaluate the state’s public school teachers—an issue that still plagues students, educators, and parents.
The recent agreement is a compromise that allows local districts to decide how they will use state test scores in teacher evaluations, as long as 20 percent of the evalua- tion is based on value added.
Sean Corcoran, assistant professor of educational economics in the steinhardt school of Culture, education, and Human Development, is the author of the recent study, “Can teachers Be evaluated by their students’ test scores? should they Be? the Use of value-added measures of teacher effectiveness in Policy and Practice.” the work has contributed significantly to this contentious debate and has been cited in nearly 15 local and national media outlets in the last month.
“Unlike other state systems that place disproportionate weight on test scores, this new system takes a more balanced approach, relying on multiple measures of teaching effec- tiveness,” says Corcoran. “it also provides substantial local flexibility, acknowledging that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach cannot work in a diverse state like New York. It aims to treat educators like professionals who understand teaching and know their schools and communities best.”
According to Corcoran, the fierce battle over how much test results should account for a teacher’s job evaluation reflects a basic lack of understanding of the public’s ability to use test scores to infer teaching quality. He asserts that while appeal- ing in the abstract, inferring the effects of a teacher from a stu- dent’s test score is challenging, and not at all straightforward.
“I do fear that overconfident legislators will seek to place even more emphasis on test scores in the future,” Corcoran says.