Alternative Student Growth Measures for Teacher Evaluation: Implementation Experiences of Early-Adopting Districts

Alternative Student Growth Measures for Teacher Evaluation: Implementation Experiences of Early-Adopting Districts

Published: Jul 21, 2015
Publisher: Washington, DC: Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic
Key Findings

Key Findings:

  • The early-adopting districts were using or preparing to use the alternative student growth measures alongside other measures of teacher effectiveness in formal evaluations.
  • Across the districts, evaluation systems that include alternative student growth measures showed a wider range of teacher performance than previous evaluation systems that lack measures of student growth.
  • Evidence is limited on the reliability and validity of alternative student growth measures used in the districts—especially student learning objectives.
  • Alternative student growth measures—especially student learning objectives— were used for many purposes other than teacher evaluation, at the district and school levels.
  • Among districts that used student learning objectives, the most frequently reported benefit was increased collaboration, whereas alternative assessment–based value-added models were perceived as fairer than student learning objectives.
  • Alternative student growth measures came with financial costs and implementation challenges, especially related to teacher time, test administration, and rigor in evaluating performance.

Throughout the country, school districts are scrambling to adhere to new state requirements for teacher evaluation. More than 40 states have mandated that some measure of student achievement growth be included in teacher evaluations. Annual state assessments are commonly used for this purpose (using statistical techniques known as value-added models or student growth models) but typically cover only grades 3–8 and one high school grade and have minimal coverage of subjects other than math and reading.

To address this limitation, many states and districts are developing alternative ways to measure student growth in grades and subjects not covered by state assessments. These alternative student growth measures fall into two broad categories:

  • Alternative assessment–based value-added models (or student growth models), which use statistical methods to measure a teacher’s contribution to students’ achievement growth on end-of-course assessments or commercially available tests.
  • Student learning objectives, which are customized goals set by a teacher (or a team of teachers) at the beginning of the school year with the approval of the principal. Student learning objectives do not involve statistical modeling.

These alternative student growth measures have only recently begun to be implemented widely. Thus, information is limited on how the measures can be used to evaluate teachers and on the costs and benefits associated with implementing the measures. This study examines implementation of alternative student growth measures in a sample of eight school districts that were early adopters of the measures. It builds on an earlier Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic report that described the two types of alternative student growth measures—alternative assessment–based value-added models and student learning objectives—in the early-adopting districts (Gill, English, Furgeson, & McCullough, 2014). This report incorporates perspectives from multiple stakeholders in the districts and more closely examines how the measures were used, their costs and benefits, and common implementation challenges and solutions.

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