Did you ever believe that using test scores to evaluate and reward teachers could be a disincentive to teaching in high poverty schools? You were right.
Teachers who score the lowest under the district’s relatively new evaluation system are overrepresented in schools with the highest concentration of poor students, according to a new report that looks for the first time at how teachers’ scores correlate with characteristics such as student poverty, teacher race and school climate.
Issued Tuesday by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, the report shows that 30 percent of teachers with the lowest observation scores teach in the district's highest-poverty schools, while just 9 percent teach in lower-poverty schools. Conversely, more than a third of the best-scoring teachers work in lower-poverty schools, and just 6 percent are in the district's poorest schools.
That means students who attend the poorest schools are not only “more likely to be taught by teachers with the bottom scores on observations, they are also the least likely to be taught by teachers who have the top scores.”
Teachers at higher-poverty schools who scored in the top 20 percent on their observations also scored “substantially less” than teachers in the top 20 percent at low-poverty schools. And differences in evaluation scores persisted even after controlling for teacher experience levels and credentials.
Researchers say, however, that they don’t know whether the discrepancies reflect true differences in the quality of teaching or that it’s just harder to be effective or get high marks in higher-poverty schools.
“They may reflect that it is harder to get high scores in unorganized, chaotic schools or in schools with few resources or instructional supports for teachers, as other studies have shown,” the report notes.
Past research has shown students in higher-poverty schools often receive more scripted instruction and test prep — instead of the kind of deeper learning that earns higher evaluation marks — and that teachers prefer to work in schools where they’re more likely to be effective.
The researchers expressed concern that the rating system could create disincentives for working with disadvantaged students and have ramifications for teachers of color.
“If minority teachers are more likely to work in contexts where it is difficult to get high ratings, the composition of the workforce itself could be affected by the personnel decisions based on evaluation scores,” the report states. “This is especially true for African American teachers, who disproportionately teach in higher-poverty schools.” . . . .