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Teacher Evaluations Tied to Test Scores: What the Public Thinks

By guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk

This post originally appeared on the Teacher Beat blog.

So just what does the public make of the recent move to tie student test scores to teacher evaluation? You won't get a straightforward answer from a bunch of polls that all dropped just this week, which found rather disparate responses to the question.

The first poll, released by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, reported that 53 percent of parents polled said changes in students' statewide test scores should be used either "a great deal" or "quite a bit" in teachers' evaluations compared with 20 percent who said "only a little" or "not at all."

But the PDK/Gallup poll, released this morning, had a different response. It found that 58 percent of adults surveyed opposed state requirements that teacher evaluations "include how well a teacher's students perform on standardized tests," an increase from the last time it asked the question.

The overall margin of error on both polls was +/- 4.1 percentage points. The AP poll was also supported financially by the Joyce Foundation, which helps underwrite coverage of the teaching profession in Education Week.

What accounts for these very different responses? Well, consider these factors:

  • AP surveyed 1,025 parents, while PDK polled 1,001 adults age 18 or older.
  • AP frames the evaluation question in terms of changes in scores rather than performance on the tests.
  • AP does not reference a state requirement, as PDK does.
  • On standardized testing writ large, the AP poll generally found parental support for the exams, while the PDK poll finds an erosion of support for the tests.
  • As colleague Lesli Maxwell points out, the PDK poll prefaced its questions by saying there had been "a significant increase in standardized testing."

Not surprisingly, folks on either side of the testing wars are embracing the poll that supports their viewpoint and condemning the other poll as biased or misleading in some way.

See the questions for yourself. Below are the relevant items from AP, top, and PDK/Gallup, lower.


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