Alternatives to State Assessments for Measuring Teachers’ Contributions to Student Achievement Growth

Statistics show that an increasing number of school districts have adopted new teacher evaluation techniques. As opposed to what many have feared, districts have almost never used student test data alone to evaluate teachers. Even if they did, the typical measure of student growth—progress on state assessments from one school year to the next—usually covers only reading and math and only in grades 4–8. So, states have begun to use multiple measures in their teacher evaluations, including both qualitative (such as observations and surveys) and quantitative data (including test data and/or SLO material). But even if some of these generalities are known, what exactly have districts used in their multiple measures?

Members of REL Mid-Atlantic’s Teacher Evaluation Research Alliance wanted to understand more about the alternatives, and the REL recently produced a literature review in response.

This literature review examines two alternatives to state assessments:

• One approach applies statistical value-added methods to outcomes other than student performance on standard state assessments. For widely used, commercially available assessments, the review finds that statistical growth models generally yield measures of teacher value-added that correlate well with teacher observations and student surveys. Much less is known about applying statistical growth models to locally developed curriculum-based assessments or nontest outcomes (such as attendance). Still, the evidence suggests that they have the potential to reliably differentiate teacher performance.

• The second approach is based on student learning objectives (SLOs) developed by individual teachers at the beginning of the school year. Ensuring consistency across teachers and schools is challenging, and implementation is demanding, but student learning objectives have the advantage that they can be implemented in any grade or subject.

Read a summary or the full report at: