Tests Evaluate How Teachers Make a Difference

Published February 4, 2011

No doubt, as 46-year teaching veteran Al Leister argued in his opinion piece, there are unmotivated students who practically defy teachers to teach them anything of substance (“Don’t evaluate teachers using students’ test scores,” Jan. 31). However, to argue that progress must await a change in “the learning culture” inside and outside the classroom is to indulge in a bit of a cop-out. A culture change may take decades, if we can even define what it means. Meanwhile, millions more young people fail to learn the basics of literacy.

Mr. Leister argues that “good students learn in spite of bad teachers” and “bad students have poor test scores in spite of good teaching.” However, the great thing about the valued-added approach to using test results in teacher evaluation is that it recognizes what the teacher starts with in terms of low- or high-achieving students, and gives credit to those teachers who make a difference in raising either good or bad to better. While reasonable people can differ as to how much test results ought to count in evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness, it is difficult to justify omitting them entirely.

Robert Holland,


The writer is senior fellow for Education Policy at the Heartland Institute.