Linking public school teacher job evaluations to student achievement, which Louisiana is starting this year, is a solid indicator of how effective teachers will be in the future, according to a report issued Wednesday.
The study was done by Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which is an education research group.
Winters studied the merits of judging teachers’ performance by how they contribute to improvements in student test scores during the course of the school year, which is called value added.
The report says value added “can be a useful piece of a comprehensive evaluation system.”
“Claims that it is unreliable should be rejected,” according to the report.
Linking gains in student test scores with other teacher reviews “can and should be part of a reformed system that improves teacher quality and thus gives America’s public school pupils a better start in life,” the study says.
Louisiana’s 60,000 public school teachers are about to face their first job evaluations under a new review system that the Legislature, prodded by Gov. Bobby Jindal, approved in 2010.
Teacher unions opposed the change and remain critical of the new reviews.
Union leaders contend the new evaluations are flawed and likely to unfairly penalize accomplished teachers.
Under the plan, half of the annual review will be connected to the growth of student test scores. The other half will be tied to classroom observations by principals and others, which have been used for years.
Teachers who get bad reviews in back-to-back school years face dismissal proceedings.
Winters, who is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, said value added and other steps are superior to evaluations used in many states, and until recently in Louisiana.
He said that, even in low-performing public schools, 98 percent of teachers reviewed receive high ratings under the review system that operates in most states.
“That is just inconsistent with what we know and what we see in empirical research,” Winters told reporters during a conference call.
Winters drew his conclusions after studying the data of fourth- and fifth-grade students in Florida.
He said that looking at test scores for a teacher’s first two years in the classroom provided solid insights in how he or she fared in the fifth year, which is generally well after teachers get a form of job protection called tenure.
How students fare in the classroom is also a better indicator of future teacher performance than a master’s degree, Winters said.
Once a teacher gets tenure, the report says, he or she is “famously difficult to dismiss” even though students can suffer.
Winters said the difference between a teacher more skilled than 75 percent of his or her colleagues compared with 25 percent can be a year’s worth of learning for a student.
The annual teacher reviews in Louisiana will be linked to tenure starting in the 2013-14 school year.