23 July 2019

Good Teachers Linked to Test Success

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A study found that effective teachers can boost the test scores of students who had struggled under low-performing instructors, marking a new salvo in the national debate over teacher performance.

The three-year study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, published Tuesday, is the first large-scale research to show, using random student assignment, that some teachers can produce test-score gains regardless of the past performance of their students, according to foundation officials.

Tom Kane, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and leader of the research project, said the data provide the best evidence yet that some teachers can "cause student achievement to happen, and this is a really big deal."

Education officials increasingly emphasize the need to evaluate, pay and fire teachers based on performance. More than two dozen states have passed laws to evaluate teachers, in part, on test scores, prodded by the Obama administration's Race to the Top education initiative, which offered money to states that began the process.

The Gates Foundation said its study found that a combination of student surveys of teacher quality, well-crafted observations of classroom teaching and test scores is the best predictor of teacher effectiveness. Mr. Kane said combining all three is the best predictor of teacher quality.

Critics say the Gates effort is flawed because it begins in part with the assumption that test scores are a good measure of teacher effectiveness, and then seeks to prove it by using test scores. Some teachers unions and parents say tests are a crude measure of teacher effectiveness.

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