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[Susan notes: Reading the London-based Economist claims about American teacher unions, we are not surprised to know that the publication belongs to The Economist Group, half of which is owned by Pearson PLC. ]

Submitted to The Economist but not published
01/25/2015

To the editor



According to America's New Advocacy, (January 24), "Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in America: the teachers' unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired."



This is incorrect: The objection is to how teachers are evaluated, specifically the use of student gains on standardized tests. A number of studies have shown that rating teachers using test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacherĂ¢€™s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit.

Ă¢€Â¨In addition, using test score gains for evaluation encourages gaming the system, trying to produce increases in scores by teaching test-taking strategies, not by encouraging real learning. This is like putting a match under the thermometer and claiming you have raised the temperature of the room.Ă¢€Â¨



We are all interested in finding the best ways of evaluating teachers, but using student test-score gains is a very inaccurate way to do it.





Some sources:

Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.

Vary from year to year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.) Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;

Stephen Krashen


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