From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance
Merit pay for teachers based on student academic performance is long overdue. If we want excellent teachers in the classroom, we must commit ourselves to offering financial rewards to those teachers who can prove, through standardized testing, their superior ability to deliver content.
Ohio is experimenting with a way to assess teacher performance based on a “value-added” approach. That is, researchers have found a way to determine what value a teacher adds to each individual student in his classroom over the course of the year.
Thus teachers can be rewarded not just for overall classroom performance, but for contributing substantially to a student’s academic growth over the year, regardless of that student’s level of proficiency when the school year began.
Student performance can be measured in achievement – the absolute levels attained by students in end-of-year tests, or in growth – that is, in the progress made in test scores by students over the school year, or both.
The value-added method enables schools – and parents – to identify which individual teachers are effective and which are not. Some school districts are already using this approach as the foundation for a performance pay system for teachers.
Entire schools can be graded on the same basis, enabling parents to identify those schools with are actually teaching children something and which schools are coasting.
One observer said this method of evaluating is a bit like using pencil marks on a bedroom wall to plot a child’s growth. Said a University of Tennessee researcher, “It is, at this point in time, the most robust methodology that has been developed. It’s fair to hold adults accountable for the progress rate of children.”
Right now just four states – Tennessee, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, in addition to Ohio – use the value-added measurement statewide. Perhaps it’s an idea whose time has come in Idaho.
Naturally, members of the education establishment criticize the value-added approach because it, like achievement measurement in general, is based on test scores. But how else can we know whether students are actually learning anything?
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