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Determining Attribution: Holding Teachers Accountable for Student Growth


"New state and federal policies, such as the Race to the Top program, have redefined accountability to require that states develop and use performance-based teacher evaluation systems to inform decisions on professional development, employment, and compensation. If teacher performance focuses on student test scores, states and districts must have a mechanism for linking those test scores to the teachers who taught those students.

This paper summarizes key issues that states and districts implementing growth and value-added models for teacher evaluation may wish to consider, along with practical examples of options for implementation. It also focuses on issues related to linking students to teachers, a concept commonly referred to as attribution.

The authors make the following conclusions:

  • There are several considerations within a set of attribution rules; these may include accounting for how much time a student spent in a teacher's class, how many relevant courses a student had, and how to define teacher of record.

  • Rules for attribution can vary, depending on whether a student had one or many teachers of record in a given year.

  • In practice, there are a number of ways to measure refined student-teacher data linkages, depending on what information is available or can be collected through existing or new data systems."