Stakeholder Starting Points

Should we rate teachers, principals, and schools based on student performance?

Local Leaders
& Administrators

Most school administrators say improving the quality of teaching is the most important way to improve schools, and 76% believe teachers’ salaries should at least somewhat be tied to students’ achievement. But many of our interviewees expressed doubts about relying on student test scores as the main way to judge teacher or school effectiveness. A South Carolina superintendent explained: “I believe that [the] growth students achieve is something we should know and assess, but I don’t think you can hold teachers accountable for everything.” Another in a wealthy New York suburb agreed: “Many of the things that are most important can't be assessed very well by standardized measures, if at all."


Extensive research by Public Agenda and others suggests that majorities of teachers favor many forms of teacher evaluation and performance-based pay. Even so, more than three in four also say “It’s not fair to attach teacher pay to students’ outcomes because so many things that affect student learning are beyond their control.” A New Jersey teacher said it this way: “I think that the teachers should be accountable to an extent. … At the same time, I don’t feel like teachers are 100% responsible for how a child does on a test.… The majority of these kids face so many other issues outside of the walls of the schools.”

Parents & The Broader Public
Some recent surveys have shown that nearly three in four Americans say teacher pay should be tied to student academic achievement, but at the same time nearly 6 in 10 also say that they oppose requiring teacher evaluations to include students’ standardized test scores. People often feel that judging teachers demands a more complex set of judgments. As a New Jersey parent said: “If you’re going to hold the teachers accountable, what if you’re a teacher that works in the school where kids face a lot of other issues. You’re trying your hardest.”

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