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Value-Added Measurement of Teachers Has a Significant Downside


Susan Fuhrman

Susan Fuhrman, TC President

Aaron Pallas

Aaron Pallas, Professor of Sociology and Education

The use of student test scores to measure teacher effectiveness has ignited passionate debate in education circles and gained front-page news status. With the blessing of many education policymakers and elected officials in Washington, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told states they would receive higher scores in their Race to the Top applications if they demonstrated that schools were evaluating teachers based in part on how well their students performed on standardized tests. Duncan and President Obama went so far as to suggest that teacher evaluations based on student test scores should be made public.

Scholarly experts have drawn the distinction between the merits of using value-added models to shape standards and curricula and the flaws and dangers of applying the same formulae to evaluate individual teacher performances. They point out that many other factors—poverty, school resources, support from parents and outside sources such as tutoring, even health status—affect standardized test scores.

In an April 6 opinion piece in EducationWeek, “Tying Teacher Evaluation to Student Achievement,” President Susan H. Fuhrman cautioned policymakers to move slowly in using value-added measures to make high-stakes decisions, such as compensation, tenure and firing, affecting teachers.

Aaron M. Pallas, Professor of Sociology and Education, has posted several pieces on his blog, “A Sociological Eye on Education,” in which he questions whether the tests themselves accurately measure students’ command of the curriculum.

The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not reflect the views of the faculty, administration or staff of Teachers College or Columbia University.
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