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Alternative Student Growth Measures for Teacher Evaluation: Implementation Experiences of Early-Adopting Districts

Abstract

"State requirements to include student achievement growth in teacher evaluations are prompting the development of alternative ways to measure growth in grades and subjects not covered by state assessments. These alternative growth measures use two primary approaches: (1) value-added models (VAMs) applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments; and (2) student learning objectives (SLOs) selected by teachers with the approval of their principals. Information is limited, however, on how these alternative growth measures can be used to evaluate teachers and on their costs and benefits. REL Mid-Atlantic sought to develop new information by conducting case studies to examine the implementation experiences of eight districts that were early adopters of alternative measures of student growth. District administrators, principals, teachers, and teachers' union representatives were interviewed for the study.

The study found that alternative growth measures have been used for many purposes other than teacher evaluation, but SLOs are unique in their use to adapt and improve instruction. Although the alternative measures show a wider range of teacher performance relative to previous evaluation systems without measures of student growth, evidence on the reliability and validity of alternative measures--especially SLOs--is limited. Districts implementing SLOs most often reported increased collaboration as a benefit, while alternative assessment-based VAMs were perceived as fairer than SLOs for making comparisons among teachers. Both types of alternative growth measures come with costs and implementation challenges. SLOs are substantially more labor-intensive relative to alternative-assessment based VAMs. More research is needed on the statistical properties of the alternative measures, the approaches districts are taking to offset implementation costs, and innovative solutions to overcome implementation challenges."

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