Student Scores Helping Assess Teachers

September 15, 2010 – In The News

A recently received grant from the Gates Foundation will have Pennsylvania teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members working toward a statewide system that would evaluate teacher and principal performance based on student test data. According to Jeffrey Sultanik, who represents Pennsbury and Hatboro-Horsham, very few Pennsylvania school districts are using the system because of the intense opposition from teachers' unions. Sultanik argues that determining a teacher’s effectiveness is a little more complicated than using a simple system that tracks student test data. He says the most significant contributing factors to student performance are socioeconomic status, or the income of a family and their mother’s education.

“If a teacher happens to have a disproportionate number of students with low socioeconomic status, they’re likely to perform less well than a teacher who has students from a higher status. An excellent teacher is one who regularly has students perform better than what’s expected,” said Sultanik. He also noted that the new system does not take into account team teaching or subjects that are not measured through standardized testing, such as physical education, music and art. Sultanik suggests that the state provide the resources and funding for every grade level for testing and analysis.“If they’re willing to commit, we can have a tool in place that would much more efficiently evaluate teacher performance on an objective basis versus subjective.”