Evaluating the Evaluators: Using Subjective Measures of Teacher Quality to Pay for Performance
Sarah Reber

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Los Angeles

Primary Discipline

Traditionally, American public schools have set teacher pay based primarily on experience and education. Policymakers and researchers alike have increasingly advocated policies that would pay teachers based on knowledge, skill, and ultimately how much their students learn, rather than on-paper qualifications that research has found to be only weakly linked to good teaching. Any system seeking to pay teachers based on performance must, of course, define performance. Most research on teacher performance and accountability has focused on “value-added” test-score-based measures, where teacher quality is judged by how well students do—or how much they improve—on standardized tests. A variety of concerns in using such measures in accountability or PFP systems have been raised, and PFP systems based only on test-score-based measures of performance are often unpopular with stakeholders. This project will explore the possibility of using alternative measures of performance, alone or together with test-score-based measures. The study will examine whether subjective evaluation procedures that school districts already use are informative about teachers’ ability to raise achievement. Using data on principal evaluations of teachers, linked to teacher personnel records and student test-score data, I will address two specific questions: (1) How good are principals at identifying teachers who are good at raising student achievement? and (2) Do principals discriminate in their ratings—that is, holding constant ability to raise student achievement, are teachers with particular characteristics consistently under-rated by principals? Subjective evaluation procedures for PFP may ultimately be different from the existing evaluation process, but principals are likely to play an important role if subjective evaluation is used as part of a PFP reform. Knowing whether principals are able to identify good teaching and whether they appear to discriminate are important first steps in deciding whether and how to use their evaluations in PFP settings.
About Sarah Reber

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