You are here

News Update

Test Scores + Observations + Surveys = Effective Teacher Ratings

Students’ state test scores can accurately identify good teachers, but aren’t the only piece of the puzzle.A teacher’s rating is most reliable when test scores are combined with classroom observations and student surveys, according to a study of 3,000 teachers from seven U.S. public school districts.

The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, a three-year study designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching, released its final research report in January. Participating teachers and students were enrolled in math and English language arts (ELA) in grades 4 through 8, algebra I at the high school level, biology (or its equivalent) at the high school level, and English in grade 9.

The project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the first large-scale study to demonstrate that it is possible to identify effective teaching by using random assignment, an experimental technique for assigning subjects (in this case, students) to different conditions (teachers) to control for student differences. In the 2009-2010 school year, the first year of the study, teachers were rated using student surveys, classroom observations, and student achievement gains. The second year, students were randomly assigned to different classrooms. Those who were assigned to teachers who previously had been identified as more effective performed better on both state tests and more cognitively challenging assessments in math and English at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

Considering classroom observations and student surveys along with state test scores provided teacher ratings that were less likely to fluctuate from year to year, the results show. The combination of measures is also more likely to identify teachers with better outcomes on classroom assessments other than state tests, including those measuring conceptual understanding in math and the ability to write short-answer responses following reading passages. So, a teacher who performs well in all three areas is likely to have higher achieving students.

Researchers recommend that:

• state test scores count for between 33 and 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation;

• classroom observations be performed by more than one person;

• schools use well-designed student per- ception surveys that address characteristics of the classroom environment, including supportiveness, challenge, and order.

Effective teacher evaluation systems should not only identify great teaching, but also provide feedback to help teachers improve their practice, the report states, and serve as the basis for more targeted professional said Tom Kane, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and leader of the MET project, in a statement. “It’s about providing the feedback every professional needs to strive towards excellence.” 

To read the report, go to