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Pay that accounts for test scores: two views

Education reformers want to look at how well an individual teacher does in improving students' scores, but the focus on specific teachers doesn't sit well with many in the profession.

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Standardized tests are a hot-button issue among teachers, raising concerns about how much time they must devote to prepping students as the stakes for the tests only get higher. So for many teachers, the idea of using students' scores to judge how well they teach – and to decide how much money they earn – is a nonstarter.

But a number of school districts use test scores, along with other measures, to do just that.

Often these systems reward all teachers in a school when students make certain gains. But increasingly, education reformers are pushing for a focus on how well an individual teacher does in improving the scores of his or her students over time.

When a district has the proper data, "value-added" formulas can do that while accounting for variables such as a child's economic background, advocates of these plans argue.

"Once we see the huge range in teachers' effectiveness [as research on test gains has shown], it doesn't make sense to leave that information off the table when we're trying to evaluate teacher performance," says Ross Wiener, a senior adviser at The Education Trust in Washington, which focuses on closing gaps in student achievement.

Assessments and methods for linking scores to teachers need improvement, Mr. Wiener acknowledges. But, he says, it's only fair to students "to get strategic about rewarding the best teachers and helping the weakest to improve," and removing those who don't improve after sustained assistance.

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