How to Measure Teacher Performance With Struggling Students

Every student has their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. While some students may thrive in academic settings, others may struggle to keep up with the demands of school.

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to not only provide support to struggling students but also measure their success. Measuring success in struggling students can be a challenge, as traditional metrics such as grades and test scores may not accurately reflect their progress.

However, by thinking of performance measurement in a new way – for students and consequently, teachers – we can effectively measure and celebrate the achievements of our struggling students. In this blog post, we’ll explore how teachers can better see, acknowledge, and support their struggling students and help them reach their full potential, and solidify their teaching performance results in the process.

Why Test Scores Are Not The Right Performance Measurement Tool

The standard of measuring student performance in schools has historically been test scores.

Teachers give lessons, students either understand or partially understand what they are taught, and if they perform well on the test about the lesson, we acknowledge that they have learned what they needed to learn from the set of lessons. On the other hand, if they don’t perform well on the test, then we assume that the student did not understand the lessons and needs to improve in one area or another.

This has naturally translated into measuring teachers’ performance through their students’ test scores. The assumption is that if teachers teach well, students should test well, and it therefore reflects on the teacher when students don’t perform well on tests.

The fact of the matter is, there are inherent flaws in this logic.

The first flaw, which has been addressed publicly multiple times, is that you can’t really measure student performance through test scores. It’s much more complicated than that, because children learn in different ways. In order to match different learning styles, we need to test student performance in different ways.

Teachers also need to take into consideration what academic performance indicates about a student’s progress or lack thereof. For instance, if you take a snapshot, you can have two students that score the same on a particular test. For one student, this can be tremendous progress, and for the other student, it could show some slacking off or struggling with this specific subject when you take into account how the student has been performing up until then.

Let’s take a traditional exam that’s scored out of 100. Obviously, someone who’s been struggling getting in the 70s and then scoring an 85 is showing a tremendous improvement and moving in the right direction. On the other hand, if a student who’s averaging 95 and above on most tests suddenly scores an 85, most teachers will question if something is going on with the student that they should address.

Everything needs to be understood in context when talking about the student’s performance, and the same applies to the assessment of the teachers. But, most teachers’ performances continue to be assessed by looking at student test scores.

What Teachers Are Guaranteed to Deliver

The reason a student may be struggling varies: they may be weak academically, they may have something going on at home, they may have some form of disability that hasn’t been addressed properly, and so on.

So here’s the big question: If a teacher has a student who’s struggling academically, how can one distinguish a good teacher from the not-as-good teacher?

To answer this question, we need to answer a really fundamental question: What is your role as a teacher?

It may seem like a simple question, but what is the answer? To teach? If you think about it a little bit more deeply, the question boils down to: what can you really guarantee to deliver to your students on a daily basis?

Academic performance is not something that a teacher can ever guarantee; there are too many factors involved.

Of course, a teacher has to do the best that they can in the form of delivering compelling lessons, following up with students, and giving formative assessments on a regular basis to make sure that the students are keeping up.

Pro tip: Assessments need to be done on a frequent basis so that if a student starts to fall behind, you can notice it right away and make the necessary adjustments.

But again, what can a teacher guarantee to deliver?

It’s to see, acknowledge, and support every student.

This is something that ClasStars lives by.

It’s a theme that comes up regularly in teacher conversations – especially the ones where students are struggling. Because when students are struggling academically, it’s usually followed by or sometimes even preceded by lower self esteem, not getting enough positive feedback, or not getting seen, acknowledged, and supported enough.

Obviously, we don’t want to give “fluffy” positive feedback. Each encouragement needs to be rooted in reality; you don’t want to mislead your students into thinking that they’re doing better than they are actually doing.

But you’ve got to see, acknowledge, and support every student on a regular basis and make sure that the students in your class get the encouragement and attention that they need. This is really the only thing that a teacher can walk into the classroom for the day and have complete control over.

We know there are many things that are pulling you in different directions, and it can be hard to stay focused while you’re giving encouragement to your students. However, if you come into class with a good plan to make sure that particular kids are getting extra attention – with the baseline that, of course, every student gets seen, acknowledged, and supported every day – then you’re doing the job that you can guarantee as a teacher.

At that point, if a student still struggles, teachers need to document the positive feedback and encouraging interactions that they’re having with that student, so that when you sit down with a parent or a school advisor, you can prove that this child has not been neglected.

And as long as you can establish that this child has not been neglected or ignored, then that becomes the foundation of any other remedies that you’re going to apply beyond that.

How This Affects Measurements of Teacher Performance

When a supervisor thinks about how to measure the success of teachers, they need to consider what is in the teacher’s realm of control.

If you discipline a teacher for poor student performance, you’re not sending a constructive message to the students. The message you need to send is that we’re all on the same team.

When teachers are faced with situations out of their control that negatively affects their performance reviews – such as a situation in a student’s home – what ends up happening is that teachers feel like they need to compensate for this poor form of assessment. As a result, test scores become inflated, tests are altered for different students, and we’re not dealing with objective reality anymore. It becomes very subjective, and the one who suffers the most from that is the student.

So if we can measure teacher performance by looking at measures that are completely in the control of the teacher, and if the teacher is successfully completing everything that is in his or her control, then that’s a good teacher.

That’s a good teacher – the teacher that cares, the teacher that connects with the kids, the teacher that doesn’t ignore any child in the classroom, and makes sure to see, acknowledge, and support every student every day.

Speak with one or two of your peers about the way we assess teacher performance. If we can introduce the idea that measures of teacher performance need to be in their realm of control, then that will be a great step in the right direction.

And obviously, as we move in the right direction, it’s better for teachers, it’s better for students, and it’s better for the future of education.

Every student has their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. While some students may thrive in academic settings, others may struggle to keep up with the demands of school. 

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to not only provide support to struggling students but also measure their success. Measuring success in struggling students can be a challenge, as traditional metrics such as grades and test scores may not accurately reflect their progress. 

However, by thinking of performance measurement in a new way – for students and consequently, teachers – we can effectively measure and celebrate the achievements of our struggling students. In this blog post, we’ll explore how teachers can better see, acknowledge, and support  their struggling students and help them reach their full potential, and solidify their teaching performance results in the process.

Why Test Scores Are Not The Right Performance Measurement Tool

The standard of measuring student performance in schools has historically been test scores.

Teachers give lessons, students either understand or partially understand what they are taught, and if they perform well on the test about the lesson, we acknowledge that they have learned what they needed to learn from the set of lessons. On the other hand, if they don’t perform well on the test, then we assume that the student did not understand the lessons and needs to improve in one area or another.

This has naturally translated into measuring teachers’ performance through their students’ test scores. The assumption is that if teachers teach well, students should test well, and it therefore reflects on the teacher when students don’t perform well on tests.

The fact of the matter is, there are inherent flaws in this logic.

The first flaw, which has been addressed publicly multiple times, is that you can’t really measure student performance through test scores. It’s much more complicated than that, because children learn in different ways. In order to match different learning styles, we need to test student performance in different ways.

Teachers also need to take into consideration what academic performance indicates about a student’s progress or lack thereof. For instance, if you take a snapshot, you can have two students that score the same on a particular test. For one student, this can be tremendous progress, and for the other student, it could show some slacking off or struggling with this specific subject when you take into account how the student has been performing up until then. 

Let’s take a traditional exam that’s scored out of 100. Obviously, someone who’s been struggling getting in the 70s and then scoring an 85 is showing a tremendous improvement and moving in the right direction. On the other hand, if a student who’s averaging 95 and above on most tests suddenly scores an 85, most teachers will question if something is going on with the student that they should address. 

Everything needs to be understood in context when talking about the student’s performance, and the same applies to the assessment of the teachers. But, most teachers’ performances continue to be assessed by looking at student test scores. 

What Teachers Are Guaranteed to Deliver

The reason a student may be struggling varies: they may be weak academically, they may have something going on at home, they may have some form of disability that hasn’t been addressed properly, and so on.

So here’s the big question: If a teacher has a student who’s struggling academically, how can one distinguish a good teacher from the not-as-good teacher?

To answer this question, we need to answer a really fundamental question: What is your role as a teacher?

It may seem like a simple question, but what is the answer? To teach? If you think about it a little bit more deeply, the question boils down to: what can you really guarantee to deliver to your students on a daily basis?

Academic performance is not something that a teacher can ever guarantee; there are too many factors involved.

Of course, a teacher has to do the best that they can in the form of delivering compelling lessons, following up with students, and giving formative assessments on a regular basis to make sure that the students are keeping up.

Pro tip: Assessments need to be done on a frequent basis so that if a student starts to fall behind, you can notice it right away and make the necessary adjustments.

But again, what can a teacher guarantee to deliver?

It’s to see, acknowledge, and support every student.

This is something that ClasStars lives by.

It’s a theme that comes up regularly in teacher conversations – especially the ones where students are struggling. Because when students are struggling academically, it’s usually followed by or sometimes even preceded by lower self esteem, not getting enough positive feedback, or not getting seen, acknowledged, and supported enough.

Obviously, we don’t want to give “fluffy” positive feedback. Each encouragement needs to be rooted in reality; you don’t want to mislead your students into thinking that they’re doing better than they are actually doing.

But you’ve got to see, acknowledge, and support every student on a regular basis and make sure that the students in your class get the encouragement and attention that they need. This is really the only thing that a teacher can walk into the classroom for the day and have complete control over.

We know there are many things that are pulling you in different directions, and it can be hard to stay focused while you’re giving encouragement to your students. However, if you come into class with a good plan to make sure that particular kids are getting extra attention – with the baseline that, of course, every student gets seen, acknowledged, and supported every day – then you’re doing the job that you can guarantee as a teacher.

At that point, if a student still struggles, teachers need to document the positive feedback and encouraging interactions that they’re having with that student, so that when you sit down with a parent or a school advisor, you can prove that this child has not been neglected.

And as long as you can establish that this child has not been neglected or ignored, then that becomes the foundation of any other remedies that you’re going to apply beyond that.

How This Affects Measurements of Teacher Performance

When a supervisor thinks about how to measure the success of teachers, they need to consider what is in the teacher’s realm of control. 

If you discipline a teacher for poor student performance, you’re not sending a constructive message to the students. The message you need to send is that we’re all on the same team.

When teachers are faced with situations out of their control that negatively affects their performance reviews – such as a situation in a student’s home – what ends up happening is that teachers feel like they need to compensate for this poor form of assessment. As a result, test scores become inflated, tests are altered for different students, and we’re not dealing with objective reality anymore. It becomes very subjective, and the one who suffers the most from that is the student.

So if we can measure teacher performance by looking at measures that are completely in the control of the teacher, and if the teacher is successfully completing everything that is in his or her control, then that’s a good teacher.

That’s a good teacher – the teacher that cares, the teacher that connects with the kids, the teacher that doesn’t ignore any child in the classroom, and makes sure to see, acknowledge, and support every student every day.

Speak with one or two of your peers about the way we assess teacher performance. If we can introduce the idea that measures of teacher performance need to be in their realm of control, then that will be a great step in the right direction.

And obviously, as we move in the right direction, it’s better for teachers, it’s better for students, and it’s better for the future of education.