Another Study Says Performance Pay For Teachers Is A Slippery Slope

The National Center for Education Evaluation is part of the U.S. Department of Education.  Their research can not be taken lightly.  (Unless perhaps you are a legislator in Alabama.)

Here are key points from a release about research looking at using tests scores to evaluate teachers, which was made public this month.  Using test scores for teacher evaluation is a central part of the proposed RAISE legislation.

A new study sanctioned by the federal government indicates that using student test scores to evaluate teachers might be extremely ineffective. The study, titled the Analysis of the stability of teacher-level growth scores from the student growth percentile model, found when looking at Nevada’s second-largest school district “that half or more of the variance in teacher scores from the model is due to random or otherwise unstable sources rather than to reliable information that could predict future performance.”

Through analyzing almost 370 elementary students, the study found using student test scores for high-stakes decisions about the effectiveness of teachers is an unreliable method and that districts should proceed with caution when doing so. Nevada was selected for the study because in 2009 it decided to mandate a statewide growth model for school accountability, ultimately deciding on a student growth percentile model and expanded this to educator evaluation in 2011.

After careful analysis, the study found “Nevada’s annual teacher-level growth scores, derived by applying the student growth per­centile model to student scores from Nevada’s Criterion-Referenced Tests in math and reading, did not meet a level of stability that would traditionally be desired in scores used for high-stakes decisions about individuals.” 

“Thus, as states examine properties of their estimates of teacher effectiveness and decision makers weigh how to incorporate teacher- level growth scores in teacher accountability policy, they may want to exercise caution and further investigate whether teacher-level growth scores are sufficiently stable for use in high-stakes decisions.”



2 Responses to Another Study Says Performance Pay For Teachers Is A Slippery Slope

  1. Thank you for your coverage of this. I am concerned about what this means for the teacher’s retirement plan. Moving to performance-based pay will affect the pension formula and I haven’t read anything in Senator Marsh’s plan that addresses this. I am concerned that this means the state wants to phase out the type of pension we currently have in place.

    For example, let’s say my students don’t perform well and I am nearing retirement in the next 5 years. Let’s say my final average salary is 56,000, my pension amount would be calculated as follows: 56,000/12 x number of years service x pension variable, giving me an amount I can plan for.

    But if I were to switch to performed-based pay, or if I were a new teacher who had no choice, there is no way to predict what the final salary will be, thus there is no way to plan for retirement.

    I am under the impression, having spoken with a friend who is a financial planner at a bank, that there is no “feasible” way to have a performance-based pay plan with what is called a defined-benefit pension. It’s impossible to plan for retirement under this kind of pension when you can’t predict final salary. Most places that have performance pay use what he called defined-contribution plans, meaning employees don’t have a guaranteed pension.

    Instead, they have to pay people like him to guide them with investments so they can set aside an amount for retirement that they think they will need, and this amount fluctuates depending on the stock market. Most of us are not financial gurus so I am very worried about this.

    What my friend told me is that, in the business world, pensions like ours are rare. People only have defined-benefit pensions when the salary is set and guaranteed, when it is not tied to sales commission etc., so my question is, how does the legislature plan to address this? Will it completely transform the way the TRS administers our pensions? Since Del Marsh is a businessman I am wondering if his goal is to make our retirement plan look more like those in the business world.

    I know that many teachers who are nearing retirement in the next 5-10 years are worried about this, along with many new teachers who need to think about long term retirement expenses. It would be helpful to have some answers from him on this.

    • Super point. As always, the Devil is in the details. Obviously, whoever drafted this legislation is generally clueless about education and how schools work.

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