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Dr. Marzano Asks, “Are Students Learning What Teachers are Teaching?”
One challenge-slash-problem with, many evaluation models is that they focus on student achievement – and that’s good. We should focus on student achievement – but sometimes use measures that really don’t necessarily get at whether what teachers are doing in the classroom actually helps students learn. And, specifically, if your evaluation model only uses state assessments to measure student achievement, you’ve got some problems there; you really do. Unfortunately, in some cases, what a teacher teaches might not necessarily be on the state test, and that can happen for a lot of reasons.
One reason might be that the teacher is not focusing on the content of the state test, and that’s a correction a teacher can make with the guidance of the school and district. Another more common reason is that the teacher’s teaching something the state assessment doesn’t assess. So, if we just use the state assessments as the only vehicle for determining whether students in a particular teacher’s class are learning by definition, it’s very limited. So, certainly you still use that state data, but in this particular approach and in our particular model, we say also use – and maybe even as the focal point, the data that you’re using to pick up student achievement – use teacher designed assessments of what they’re actually teaching during a particular unit. And those teacher designed assessments could be things that an individual teacher designs just for their particular unit; better yet, they might be common assessments that have been designed by a department.
Now, for me, that’s the best of all possible worlds, if you were saying, “Okay as part of the evaluation process, for each teacher in this school or district, we’re going to look at how well students are achieving and in certain cases we’re going to use this state test data, but in addition to that, we’re going to use assessments that are designed specifically to pick up what the teacher is teaching.”
The ultimate question at a pedagogical level is: Are students learning in this teacher’s classroom? A side, but important, question is: Are students learning the content that will be on the state test? And again, I don’t want to say we should not do that, but that is a separate question.
So, to be very pure about teacher feedback and teacher evaluation, we have to focus on the question: Are students learning what the teacher is teaching? And then another related – but still different – question is: Are students learning the content that will be on the state test? And again, that should be addressed, but to be very clear in terms of teacher feedback and evaluation, that first question – are students learning what teachers are teaching? – really gets at, are teachers being effective in the classroom?
So, the state test has its place, but we need other data to really get at teacher effectiveness. And this model is designed to pick up that other data, along with state test data.