Exam results best way to judge teachers, study says

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Teacher performance in the classroom should be judged on the impact they have on exam and test results over time, according to a new report.

Teacher performance in the classroom should be judged on the impact they have on exam and test results over time, according to a new report.

The study, Testing Teachers, published by the Sutton Trust, found this was the best way of predicting a teacher’s long-term success, out of the three most common ways of assessing teacher effectiveness.

The research, by Richard Murphy of the London School of Economics, showed that pupil test scores were twice as accurate as student surveys, and nearly three times more effective than classroom observations.

The study comes at a time when the government wants teachers to be paid according to their performance and has given schools freedom to develop their own teacher appraisal methods. 

Sir Peter Lampl, the chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Michael Gove is hoping that schools will use appraisal and evaluation to achieve real improvement and reward the best teachers more effectively. 

“Unless schools and their leaders develop their own clear appraisal standards there is every danger that these changes will be no more effective than what went before.” 

Sir Peter added that it was important to raise the standard of teachers who were already in the classroom, rather than having a drive to recruit more high calibre new recruits.

The study found that evaluations were most effective when value-added scores were combined with other classroom measures, such as observations and surveys of students about the quality of teaching they receive.

Richard Murphy, the author, said: “There is growing evidence from the UK and the United States showing that there is a significant correlation between teacher evaluations and exam results. Effective evaluation is good for pupils and good for teachers. 

“It can improve the quality of teaching, provided it is accompanied by good feedback, and it can lead to better results for pupils and improved learning.”

He continued: “However, the evidence also suggests that schools should rely on a combination of approaches to gain a fuller picture of teacher effectiveness, and that teachers should be assessed on their cumulative performance over several years rather than on the data from a single year.”

Testing Teachers tips for effective teacher evaluation: 

  • Schools should use a mix of value-added or progress measures, classroom observations and pupil surveys, rather than one approach to teacher appraisal

  • Any teacher appraisal system needs to be fair and consistent for all

  • External advice should be used, where possible, to confirm the quality and standard of a school’s system and to assure staff of its fairness and governors of its robustness

  • Staff sessions should be used to discuss the new system and help shape its effective implementation

  • Staff involved in evaluation should be properly trained, and school leaders should ensure that they are working within the agreed standards for the school

  • School leaders should provide one-to-one feedback on the outcome of evaluations

  • Teachers’ contributions to extra-curricular activities, including sports, trips and clubs, should be recognised as part of the process. 

  • Value-added or progress measures should be the primary data used in evaluating performance

  • Developmental and evaluative classroom observations should be carried out, with clear standards and protocols

  • Pupil surveys should be clearly structured, age-appropriate, and complement other measures


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