Monday, September 19, 2011

How Do We Determine Teacher Effectiveness?

National leaders, teachers’ unions, state officialsall have tried to come up with the most effective method for evaluating teachers. What will ensure quality educators for the students in our schools? Although there is no simple, ready-made solution, Nancy Folbre argues in an article in the New York Times that rating teachers according to their students’ performance on standardized tests and firing those who don’t make the grade will likely backfire.

Too much pressure to improve students’ test scores can reduce attention to other aspects of the curriculum and discourage cultivation of broader problem-solving skills, also known as “teaching to the test.” The economists Bengt Holmstrom and Paul Milgrom describe the general problem of misaligned incentives in more formal terms – workers who are rewarded only for accomplishment of easily measurable tasks reduce the effort devoted to other tasks.

Advocates of intensified teacher assessment assert that current practices leave too many incompetent or ineffective teachers in place. But many schools suffer from the opposite problem: high teacher turnover that reduces gains from experience and increases the costs of personnel management. As Sara Mosle pointed out in a recent review of Mr. Brill’s “Class Warfare,” about 40 percent of teachers in New York City quit after three years.

Is there a solution?

To read the full article, click here.

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