Nate Silver on Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers [SLIDE]

One of the hottest statistical minds in the world right now is Nate Silver, the mind behind the FiveThirtyEight blog which is dedicated to helping readers to “cut through the clutter of this
data-rich world.”

Silver rose to prominence initially by using algorithms to correctly predict the winner of 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election.  He’s gone on to become one of the most respected voices on the use of data to drive decisions.

Yesterday, Silver participated in an online IAmA Blogger Q+A session over at Reddit — and the first question that he was asked was whether or not he believed that using standardized test scores to determine a teacher’s value was a responsible decision.

Silver’s response was worth sharing with every parent and educational policymaker you know:

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

Now to be fair, Silver DOES say that he’d need to give the topic a much longer look before he’d be able to make any real decisions on using test scores to evaluate teachers. 

But his initial hunch that using test scores as the most important measure of a teacher’s effectiveness is an example of using data badly aligns nicely with the thinking of other really bright minds working BEYOND education — including Bill Gates (see here and here), Dan Pink (see here) and Chip and Dan Heath (see here).

And as Liz Dwyer points out on the Good Education blog, Silver’s hunch on testing as a tool for holding teachers accountable also aligns nicely with REAMS of studies already completed by everyone from The National Research Council and the president of Math for America to respected senior scholars like Richard Rothstein.

Finally, Silver’s initial hunch ALSO aligns nicely with the opinions of the very companies that make the standardized tests that are strangling education in our country, who have noted time-and-again that their products were never designed to be used to draw conclusions about individual teachers.

So if there is a broad consensus starting to form that using test scores to evaluate teachers is a bad idea, then why do policymakers — including President Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan — keep pushing for these failed policies?

That’s a question that every person you vote for should be forced to answer.



Image Credit:
statistician Nate Silver at
SXSW in Austin, Texas USA on March 15, 2009
by Randy Stewart — Licensed
Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike on January 10, 2012

King Nate Silver Isn’t Sold on Evaluating Teachers With Test Scores




6 thoughts on “Nate Silver on Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers [SLIDE]

  1. Dan

    Maybe we should start with the basic question of whether teachers should be evaluated. Assuming that there would be an affirmative response, we would then be able to move into what aspects of the teaching/learning model may be evaluated. If, then, some consensus may be arrived at the specific areas to be measured, then we can move into the units of measurement. Human activities may not be easily measured/graded, but without a means to measure results of planned actions, results will tend to move towards the lowest common denominator instead of achieving the highest possible results.

  2. TeachMoore

    Just one more example of hypocrisy in modern politics. Demand that educators use data to drive our work, but ignore it when you are making the decisions that affect the entire nation.
    I wish the media would spend half as much time pointing out these types of facts and contradictions as they waste on features about Michelle Rhee.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Kelly,
    I do think its interesting that it was the first question. That shows just how controversial the practice is. Some people are passionately in favor of holding teachers accountable with objective measures and other people are passionately opposed.
    What always blows my mind, though, is that the consensus coming from people who are considered experts in industry and in statistics and in studying success beyond schools is almost always, this is a bad idea while the consensus from right wingers elected to public office is this is the only way we can reform schools.
    Thats something that we should all be concerned about.

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Jeff asked:
    Im not sure if you particpated in real time or not but was the
    education question the first question or was it voted up to the top
    – – – – – – – – – –
    I didnt participate in real time, Jeff — and Ill admit to not knowing a ton about Reddits up-voting system — but just poking around the actual conversation, the question on education received almost 3 TIMES the number of votes as any other question in the conversation. That seems to suggest that it was voted to the top, but I cant be sure.
    Hope this helps somehow,

  5. Jeff

    Thanks for posting this. I read the r/IAMA after the fact and wanted to share it with my faculty and fellow administrators but Reddit is blocked in our district. I’m not sure if you particpated in real time or not but was the education question the first question or was it voted up to the top spot?

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