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Trusting Our Judgment: Measurement and Accountability for Educational Outcomes


by David Steiner — 2013

Background/Context: Education policymakers across the country face an urgent problem: we know there is wide disparity in teacher effectiveness, but we lack meaningful tools to identify and reward the most effective teachers or to ensure that the least effective improve or leave the classroom.

Purpose: This article considers the value of the national move toward value-added measures and our current fascination with objective measurements – a fascination that stems from our collective distrust of our teachers and ourselves, and our reluctance to make judgments about the substantive narratives we teach students.

Research Design: This is an analytical and reflective piece that draws upon the author’s experience serving as New York State Commissioner of Education and dean of a teacher education institution in New York City.

Conclusions: Value-added measures of teachers’ impact on student learning are an imperfect but important tool; however, by often refusing to take responsibility for what is worth teaching, we risk cutting off important opportunities for democratic education and ultimately impoverishing students’ own ability to make meaningful judgments about their world, regardless of their test scores.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 9, 2013, p. 1-8
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17114, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 9:47:19 PM

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About the Author
  • David Steiner
    Hunter College
    E-mail Author
    DAVID M. STEINER is Klara and Larry Silverstein Dean at the Hunter College School of Education and Founding Director of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy. His work at Hunter has achieved national recognition for innovation in video analysis, clinically rich teacher preparation, and partnership with charter school networks. As Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, he took a lead role in the State’s successful $700 million Race to the Top application to support the redesign of state standards, assessments, and teacher certification requirements. Previously, Dr. Steiner has also served as Director of Arts Education at the National Endowment for the Arts and Chairman of the Department of Education Policy at Boston University. Dr. Steiner's background is in the fields of K-12 education policy, the philosophy of education, ethics, and political theory. An award-winning teacher and recipient of multiple research awards, he has published extensively on the challenges of public education. Dr. Steiner consults regularly with governments, school districts, universities, and foundations. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University and a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Balliol College at Oxford University.
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