Getting the Educator Evaluation Formula Right

Matt Chapman - NWEA.orgIn this brief essay, NWEA President and CEO Matt Chapman reflects on the appropriate use of student growth data in educator evaluation systems and calls for the development of constructive, multi-dimensional evaluation processes focused on improving student learning and teacher practice.  

At NWEA, we provide personalized, computer adaptive assessments that measure the academic growth of individual students (Measures of Academic Progress® or MAP®) and we are increasingly finding that the data created through our assessments is being used in teacher evaluations.  We believe the use of student growth data can be helpful in informing and improving not only student instruction (the purpose for which our assessments are designed), but also as one source of data in the process of helping teachers improve.  The recent essay on “Six Steps to Effective Teacher Development and Evaluation,” by Vicki Phillips of the Gates Foundation and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers is compelling in stating that the process of evaluation should be designed around helping teachers improve and should be a system with multiple sources of data and strong institutional support for the teachers being evaluated.  As the article notes, the goal should be doing this right, not doing it quickly, and often test results are used as an easy substitute for processes that are more appropriate and effective.  Teaching is a complex task with numerous factors involved, and teachers deserve to be treated with respect rather than threatened with public retribution based on test results that almost certainly do not present a comprehensive view of how a teacher is performing.

The national fixation on testing, especially standardized accountability testing, is unfortunate and can hurt student learning.  At NWEA, we believe it is time for an organization in the testing industry to step up and speak out in favor of both students and teachers.  As a not-for-profit created nearly 40 years ago by teachers and education researchers, and with a mission of “partnering to help all kids learn,” we believe we have an obligation to do so.  For that reason, we have been engaged for several years in conversations with school leaders and policy makers about the appropriate and best uses of student achievement and growth data.  Further, we are accelerating our efforts as part of our national agenda, which includes focus on advancing the understanding of purposes and uses of assessments and on supporting teachers as professionals desiring the kind of process and treatment advocated by the AFT and Gates Foundation.  We applaud and appreciate the article, which makes an important contribution toward advancing the right steps to help improve both teaching and learning.

Matt Chapman, President & CEO

Northwest Evaluation Association