High Quality Teacher Evaluation Must Focus on More than Test Scores
New report offers clear guidance for policymakers

December 7, 2010

Research supports using multiple measures to evaluate teacher effectiveness


Contact: Teri Battaglieri - (517) 203-2940;

EAST LANSING, Mich., (December 7, 2010)—As New York City awaits a court ruling on whether its school system can legally release to the public the value-added performance ratings for New York City teachers, the education field still awaits proof that those test-score numbers are really the best way to evaluate teachers.

As shown in a new policy brief released today, teachers' effectiveness and quality can and should be evaluated, but sensible and useful evaluation depends on a balanced system where value-added models using student standardized test scores play only a limited role.

The brief was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

According to the NEPC research review prepared by Pennsylvania State University professor of education Patricia Hinchey, supporting and sustaining high-quality teaching depends on combining many sources of valuable information. The brief describes several different teacher evaluation methods and explains that no single method of teacher evaluation is sufficient by itself. Each has weaknesses that can be compensated for when combined with others. These methods include:

  • Classroom observations and evaluations by administrators

  • Portfolios prepared by teachers that document a range of teaching behaviors and responsibilities; and

  • Peer review

The brief, Getting Teacher Assessment Right: What Policymakers Can Learn from Research, notes that most current discussions about improving teacher quality tend to be imbalanced, focusing disproportionately on student test scores. "While there are important questions about what exactly achievement scores can—and cannot—indicate about individual teachers, there is no question that placing extreme emphasis on test scores alone can have unintended and undesirable consequences that undermine the goal of developing an excellent teaching force," says Hinchey.

The brief highlights research findings arguing that effective teacher evaluation should ensure that:

  • All participants in an assessment are involved in its design, and have an opportunity to learn and to fully understand the system that is implemented;

  • Assessments are informed by a full spectrum of tools, rather than a single measurement, such as test scores; and

  • The design of the assessment system is based on high-quality research and supported by adequate resources.

The brief concludes with a recommendation that policymakers carefully think through the purposes and available methods of teacher assessment before embracing one particular solution to the exclusion of others. As Hinchey observes, "Since any teacher assessment system must address multiple goals, it should rely on multiple sources of information."

Find Patricia Hinchey's report, Getting Teacher Assessment Right: What Policymakers Can Learn from Research on the Great Lakes Center website at:

The report is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

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