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Introduction to High-Stakes Teacher Evaluation: High Cost—Big Losses

by Alyson Leah Lavigne, Thomas L. Good & Ronald W. Marx - 2014

This special issue informs policymakers, educational researchers, administrators, teacher educators, and teachers on recent developments in high-stakes teacher evaluation. New directions in teacher evaluation have led to protests and strikes across the nation, most notably in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. In January 2013, tensions boiled in New York City as the union and administration struggled to reach an agreement about teacher evaluation. These challenges have the potential to cost cities and states millions; however, moving forward with the current state of high-stakes teacher evaluation may be equally, if not more, costly.


In the summer of 2012, Alyson Lavigne and Tom Good embarked on writing a book, Teacher and Student Evaluation: Moving Beyond the Failure of School Reform. Soon after, Tom Good visited with Ron Marx, dean of the College of Education (University of Arizona) and mentioned their new and exciting book and the issues that would be addressed (e.g., unintended consequences and limitations of measures of teacher evaluation). Ron Marx, from the point of view of a dean and a feel for the wider policy implications, broadened the concern to a policy platform by creating a conference addressing the very issues that were not being given due attention. In the previous year, Marx had been a committee chair for the state of Arizona’s new teacher and principal evaluation framework, and had grave concerns about how such a system would work in practice and the ultimate effects it might have on the teaching profession. Moreover, during the winter of 2012, he served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee for revisions to Titles 2 and 4 of the Higher Education Act. At the heart of the committee’s work was how to use new teacher evaluation data to rate teacher preparation programs and to use such ratings to enable or restrict allocations of financial aid for students enrolled in these programs. The need to share these issues with a large audience was real and pressing.

The conference entitled, “High-Stakes Teacher Evaluation: High Cost—Big Losses” was held in Tucson, Arizona in October 2012 (http://www.coe.arizona.edu/highstakes). The conference presentations were subsequently made available through the University of Arizona (http://www.coe.arizona.edu/highstakes_speakers). This special issue is a written collection of the expanded conference papers.

Authors in this special issue make substantive contributions to emerging issues in high-stakes teacher evaluation, including historical analyses and issues related to reliability, validity, and broader policy implications. The papers that follow are organized in a way that first provides a rich historical foundation. In the first paper, Tom Good provides an extensive overview of what is known about how teachers impact student achievement outcomes—a knowledge base that was established by the mid-1980s, but continues to be replicated and expanded today. Good also both addresses the wide value of this knowledge base and discusses its limitations.

The interest in what teachers do that influences student outcomes has shifted to an interest in how much teachers influence student outcomes. Although historically it was established that teachers matter, this more recent body of literature quantified to what extent teachers matter as compared to other variables (e.g., school effects). Hence, in the second paper, Spyros Konstantopoulos reviews the research on teacher effects and considers the potential of this knowledge base for exploring modern-day high-stakes teacher evaluation.

We then turn to the current state of teacher evaluation, which is a system primarily driven by student achievement and observation data. New statistical techniques, such as value-added modeling, have gained significant traction. The third paper addresses this development. Clarin Collins and Audrey Amrein-Beardsley provide an overview of the accountability shift toward using new measures of student achievement as an indicator of teacher effectiveness. They present a national summary of the use of growth and value-added models.

In the fourth paper, Corinne Herlihy and colleagues explore how state officials, their districts, and local education agencies plan to implement teacher evaluation systems. They place a particular emphasis on understanding how states approach observation as a measure of teacher effectiveness and related issues of reliability and validity.

Next, we turn to understanding the larger implications of using current teacher evaluation, particularly as high stakes. In order for a measurement to be valid, it needs to measure what is intended, but it also needs to fail to measure that which is unintended. In the fifth paper, David Berliner addresses what else is being measured in teacher evaluation beyond the teacher. He illustrates the need to better understand and honor unobservable variables (e.g., peer or compositional effects) that play a significant role in the achievement outcomes of students. Until this is accomplished, it is possible teachers may be hired, fired, tenured, or receive merit pay for reasons not entirely related to the actual instruction they provided to students.

Sixth, Alyson Lavigne addresses the probability that high-stakes teacher evaluation can meet the intended outcomes of a better teacher workforce and better student achievement outcomes. She then shifts to explore the possible unintended consequences of high-stakes teacher evaluation such as lower teacher retention, morale, and collaboration among teachers. These issues are critical for those who are involved in high-stakes teacher evaluation.

We then turn the focus to the ripple effect high-stakes teacher evaluation is having on teacher preparation programs across the nation. Rick Ginsberg and Neal Kingston address the high-stakes challenges faced by teacher preparation programs, particularly in the context of evidence that is primarily correlational. They examine the role teacher preparation plays in the current era of accountability and offer solutions for surviving the accountability “vise.”

Finally, Ron Marx comments on the collection of papers, drawing themes from them that ought to be of special concern to the educational research, policy, and practice communities. Marx illustrates that although each paper raises different issues, to some extent, they are intertwined and, taken together, paint a very complex, yet grim picture for the future of teacher evaluation.

This special issue provides a cutting edge analysis of high-stakes teacher evaluation as imposed by Race to the Top and other federal and state policies. This special focus examines what is known about good teaching and how that knowledge is derived from measures of classroom teaching and student achievement. The conditions required for the valid use of these data are examined in detail, as are the critical assumptions that are made (knowingly or not) when these measures are used. The steps individual states are taking to evaluate teachers are described, and this discussion makes it clear that what constitutes good teaching varies from state to state. The policy implications involved in high-stakes evaluation—both intended and unintended—are given careful attention. This special issue has much to say to principals, teachers, teacher educators, policymakers, and all concerned with public education in America.

In closing, we are delighted to present this special issue, High-Stakes Teacher Evaluation: High Cost—Big Losses. We wish to express our gratitude to those who helped with the conference leading up to this special issue: Ashley Carroll, Jo Ann Hurley, Henry Colvin, Heather Lares, David Lyon, Ganna Sobolevs’ka, Toni Sollars, and Ana Terrazas. Special thanks are extended to Gary Natriello, executive editor, and Lyn Corno, editor of Teachers College Record for their guidance and support, and timely publication.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 1, 2014, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17288, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 9:34:46 AM

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About the Author
  • Alyson Lavigne
    Roosevelt University
    E-mail Author
    ALYSON LEAH LAVIGNE (previously known as Alyson Lavigne Dolan) is assistant professor of curriculum studies at Roosevelt University. Her research has focused on student and teacher motivational dynamics, early childhood and elementary education, teacher retention, and more recently, teacher evaluation.
  • Thomas Good
    University of Arizona
    THOMAS L. GOOD is a Professor and Department Head in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Arizona. His undergraduate work was at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. His Master and PhD work were done at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. His previous teaching included appointments at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas (Department of Educational Psychology) and the University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri (Department of Curriculum and Instruction). He is a member of the National Academy of Education and is a Fellow in both the American Psychology Association and the American Educational Research Association. His interests include instructional behavior, teacher expectations, youth policy, and educational policy. His work has been supported by numerous foundations, his research has appeared in numerous publications (in journals for both researchers and practitioners), and his books have been translated into several languages (including Japanese, Spanish, German, and Chinese). Among his books are several editions of Looking in Classrooms (coauthored with Jere Brophy) and he is presently writing a book with Alyson Lavigne examining the intended and unintended effects of high-stakes evaluation
  • Ronald Marx
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    RONALD MARX is Professor of Educational Psychology and Dean of Education at the University of Arizona, where he holds the Paul L. Lindsay and Kathy J. Alexander Chair in Education. His interdisciplinary research has focused on science education in urban settings, and more recently, early childhood education. Recent publications include a psychometric evaluation of the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment published in the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment (with Barbu, Levine-Donnerstein and Yaden) and a discussion of large-scale interventions in science education, appearing in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.
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