December 2010 Issue
November 19, 2010

EPI cautions against reading too much into test scores

Source: NYSUT United

"Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers" (Aug. 30, 2010)

Author: Economic Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

Key findings: Ten educational testing experts, including Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Ravitch, caution against heavy reliance on test scores for evaluating, rewarding or removing teachers.

The EPI analyses found Value-Added Modeling (VAM) results are often unstable across time, classes and tests. VAM, the report said, cannot fully account for the wide range of outside factors that influence student learning, so educators who teach students with the greatest educational needs appear to be less effective than they are.

The report documents negative consequences of using test scores to evaluate teacher performance — narrowing and over-simplifying curriculum, more teaching to the test and creating a competitive atmosphere that discourages collaboration within schools.

The report concludes that if VAM is used, it should be part of a comprehensive evaluation system. For more, go to

NYSUT's perspective: Analyzing student test scores can be valuable but should never be the central way to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness. NYSUT's Innovation Initiative is developing a comprehensive evaluation system that will be piloted in several districts later this year.