How Much Does Student Achievement Factor Into Your Evaluation?


The question we asked this week in the ASCD SmartBrief ED Pulse poll addresses one of the hottest topics in education right now—teacher evaluation and the degree to which student achievement (and student test scores) should be factored into these evaluations.

The national movement to improve teacher evaluation grew out of the reform efforts of the Obama administration, which has used its $4 billion Race to the Top competition and waivers to the federal No Child Left Behind law to encourage states to change how teachers are assessed. The recent teacher strike in Chicago was due in part to a contract dispute about the extent to which student test scores should be used to rate a teacher’s performance. In that case, the teachers were dissatisfied with the Chicago Public School contract that called for 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student achievement. The eventual agreement called for the percent to be reduced to 30 percent, with some other details that referenced new teachers.

Sixty percent of the ASCD SmartBrief readers who responded to this poll work in districts where teacher evaluation is based on value-added or student achievement measures. This percent is likely to grow as many districts across the United States are slowly rolling in these measures. Of those educators whose districts currently use these measures, half of the districts base 31–50 percent of their teacher evaluation on student achievement or data, with an equal percent selecting 31–40 percent or 41–50 percent. Second, there is a strong percent (a quarter) whose district’s system bases less than 20 percent of their teacher evaluation on student achievement. Very few districts place more than 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student achievement data.


This survey question was included in ASCD SmartBrief, a daily education news roundup e-newsletter, which has 217,000 subscribers. Using ED Pulse, the weekly online poll, data was collected from 469 readers, starting on September 20, 2012. Online surveys do not provide a random sample, as participants are self-selected, meaning that a margin of sampling error cannot be calculated or quoted. In addition, the population and sample are limited to those with access to computers and an online network. However, online surveys have been shown to produce results that have proven to be reliable predictors of outcomes, including election results.

If you have a question on education that you would like to see addressed in a future ED Pulse poll, feel free to submit it in the comment section below, along with any other comments.


  1. I was wondering if there are any special exceptions for special education student achievement? This is not to say that special education students cannot make growth, but as a special educator I find it very discouraging to be evaluated on the growth of my students. Typically my students’ growth is not as prominent as the general education students. Any thoughts??

    • Currently my union is fighting measures to use student achievement data as part of teacher evaluations. Personally I feel conflicted about the issue of using special education student data as a factor, as you mention Lauren. I agree that special education students do tend to show slower growth, but you have to recognize that it is growth. If they are part of an isolated group and the programs or interventions they are part of are effective, they will show significant growth. My issue is when they are lumped into a general education classroom and their slower growth pattern pulls down the overreaching class average. I believe it isn’t fair to mix special education students or the general education students’ data and use that to evaluate the classroom teacher.

    • I teach students will multiple disabilities. Neither of them are verbal and the use of sign language is limited. It is very difficult to show academic progress. I can show that I have taught them some signs and that they can communicate using picture charts/books. This week I am very excited with the progress of one student – he hasn’t cried in class for 3 days. I have worked with him over 2 years and this is a new record. I don’t know how to score that on my evaluation!
      It’s very frustrating to have the responsibility for every aspect of child development thrust on teachers when we have no control over the majority of influencing factors.

    • Teacher evaluations based on student performance is acceptable however; it has to be fair across the board. I teach in a poverty stricken school where scores are not comparable to scores in the northern part of the city where the students come from privileged backgrounds and actively involved parents. We have to go through many hoops to do ensure minimum progress in some students. The increase in growth will be different as far as percentages so I wonder will it be a matter of just showing improvement at any level as long as the numbers rise and do not decline.

  2. My county is planning on going to evaluations that are 50% based on student achievement. This is a scary thought considering I teach in an inclusion classroom. This is also alarming for those teachers that teach in EIP classrooms. I wonder if they are going to evaluate at the beginning of the year and then again give the same assessment at the end. This way we can chart progress made. I do not feel that it is fair to a teacher to place this much pressure on them as well as the students. I feel that this is only going to open the door for more problems. I understand wanting to base teacher performance on some sort of assessment, but it should not be this huge multiple choice assessment that students take at the end of the year when they are already burnt out and ready for summer vacation. This is so alarming!

  3. Upon evaluation of my class’s state scores compared to their last year’s scores, I had three particular students who scored very low, yet I knew their potential was much greater. When I reflected upon these three particular students, I remembered that each had family issues this past year – dad moving out and divorce, mom having to get a job and student having to take care of many younger siblings, one’s family was homeless. At the time of the state test their attention was focused elsewhere, understandably. And these were just the three I knew about and could pinpoint. So I guess my evaluation is to be based on conditions completely and utterly out of my and my students’ control? So if an Olympic runner takes the starting line, and a tornado suddenly pops up, the coach is held liable because the runner failed to beat his time from last year?

  4. I whole-heartedly agree with all the comments posted. Particulary, I enjoyed reading Betsy’s post. It is a very scary thought to think that some students have unhealthy environmental factors from home that affect their educational well-being at school. I try so hard to be a positive influence for my first graders. However, what do you do when you are working with students that receive no help from home? I feel that teachers are being punished when parents don’t work with their children at home. I understand the importance of having teacher performance based on student achievement but this is a very stressful component of the new teacher evaluation system!

  5. I am conflicted on the issue of teacher performance based on student-achievment. In my district we are very heavily weighted by yearly evaluations on student performances for state tests and district mandated tests. I believe in high expeectations for educators and students but I am realistic about real life situations with my students. Our students are high poverty, high special needs and high english as a second language learners so that increases the pressure that educators feel ten fold. To me, there should be a more defined balance in children making a one year growth as opposed to “grade” standards. For most children, yes this is a fine assessment, however taking into account the chidren that are of the ESOL and special needs population, some thought should be given as to how much we look at “grade level” and more at how far educators were able to move them educationally in one year. I believe there is a place for teacher evaluations based on student achievment, I believe that we need to take a harder look at how those assessments are being handed to children and how the government responds. I do not feel that a blanket cure is best, but a more individualized approach to assessing students and teachers.

  6. My state has passed a law that makes 50% of our evaluations related to student achievement beginning in 2013-2014. The other 50% will be based on teacher observations (Danielson model) and teacher portfolios, PLCs, etc.

    Though the 50% student achievement mandate is scary in and of itself, the even more frustrating part is that the state still doesn’t even know what it wants insofar as an exam/set of exams/tool with which to measure “student achievement”. And yet, it’s supposed to take effect in less than a year.

    We are a PARCC state, so we have been told that we may need to reevaluate our current 4×4 block scheduling because PARCC has said it would like to test students every six weeks to measure achievement. However, since we have semesters and not year-long courses, this would not work in our district. When that concern was brought to the state, the state said it was “a district-level problem” and not something they were willing to consider or deal with. If the schedule change goes through, we could lose a lot of great classes and programs and potentially have to lay off teachers due to having to offer fewer courses (since students currently can balance eight semesters instead of four years).

    Again, the most frustrating part is that PARCC has said that they aren’t even sure if the six-week testing schedule is what they’re going to use or not.

    I feel like whenever we start talking about student achievement, we come back to the same problem: no one even knows how they can objectively measure it, let alone without disrupting existing schedules, programs, etc.

  7. I teach in Louisiana. Not only did La. adopt a 50% student progress evaluation this year, we also adopted Common Core Standards. Absolutely no resources or manuals have been provided for the classrooms. We are making everything ourselves. I am working 12-14 hr.days and all weekend for $42K/yr. We were told a week before school started that our Student Learning Targets would be set for us. Now, we have to set and enter them in a new database. We also have been told that only 10% of our workforce will be rated highly effective. The 10% who are rated ineffective will be “at will” employees next year. Our union is not strong enough to do very much. All the lawsuits are coming. It’s going to be insane. No two schools, districts, or parishes have used the same evaluations. How is it fair that a school with magnet students and significant resources can be compared to a Title I school? It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I teach first grade. The students who entered this year only had to be able to count to 30. In the first three weeks of school, they were required by Common Core to read, write, and count to 120. Yet everyday it seems I get put on another committee. When will this ever stop? I guess I should feel lucky to even have a job in this economy.

  8. I am concerned with the teacher evaluations. I feel that there is too much of an emphasis being based on the student achievement testing. As teachers we seem to be doing more and more assessments these days instead of actually teaching. By having the students test scores having so much of an impact on the teacher evaluations, the teachers are getting very stressed out.

  9. Am I the only educator that thinks including student progress on some level in teacher evaluations is a good idea? In my state many of the rules have not been clarified and I am worried about how things will shake out by the end of the year. But, we need to show the public that we are doing what we are being paid to do. Yes, many children come from less than ideal homes but they are our charges when they are with us. It is our task to ensure that our students are actually gaining knowledge during the time that they are in our classrooms. Naturally, modifications should be made to evaluation systems to account for Special Ed, English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. In most states and most districts we already know what those numbers are and it is not impossible to add qualifiers to our evaluation systems. This is the time for us and our Unions to speak up and state how we would like this to be done instead of objecting the entire idea. We all have had a less than great teacher as students and know co-workers on the cost to retirement plan. It better for the profession and our kids if they felt responsible for their students’ progress or were forced out by these new evaluation systems.


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