Eye on Education

Grading the Teachers: “Most Effective” Teachers Say High Scores Happen By Focusing on the Kids

Green teacher Adam Hartman teaches advanced math classes in the Green school district.

Lisa DeJong / The Plain Dealer

Adam Hartman teaches advanced math classes in the Green school district.

Two Northeast Ohio teachers whose valued-added scores are among the top 25 statewide say they don’t consciously aim to score well.

“It just happens by doing my job,” said Carrie Marochino, a fifth-grade math teacher at the intermediate school in the Green School District. “I worry about students doing well.”

Her colleague and fellow fifth-grade math teacher, Adam Hartman, said that although he reviews detailed state reports about each of his students at the start of every school year to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, he doesn’t do it to beef up his value-added rating.

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This series about valued-added, a new way that Ohio is using to measure whether teachers provide a year’s worth of learning to their students, is the result of a partnership between The Cleveland Plain Dealer and StateImpact Ohio. StateImpact reporters Molly Bloom and Ida Lieszkovszky worked with Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O’Donnell and Plain Dealer data analysis editor Rich Exner to produce these stories.



He and Marochino say the key is setting high standards for students, motivating them to work hard and making the class fun.

That often means staying behind on breaks and lunch hours or after school to work with students who are struggling.

Both teachers note that the advanced math classes they teach cover material well beyond the standard fifth-grade curriculum.

Their principal at Green Intermediate School, Mark Booth, said he thinks some of the teachers’ success in value-added rankings is because they teach math in 90-minute blocks, teach a single subject instead of multiple ones from fourth grade on and don’t often have to switch grades or subjects.

“We keep teachers in the areas where they can thrive and become experts for longer periods of time,” Booth said.

Hartman, for example, has taught fifth-grade math each of his nine years in the district.

“Teaching the same grade level has really allowed me to familiarize myself with the standards and indicators of what kids are learning,” he said. “If I had been flip-flopping from one grade level to the next or from math one year to reading the next, it would be more difficult.”

Marochino taught multiple subjects for 10 years but has spent the last four teaching only fifth-grade math.

Both teachers see advantages and drawbacks of using value-added in teacher ratings.

Hartman thinks it can motivate teachers to try to do better but worries that out-of-class issues can make a teacher look bad.

“I can control the things that go on in my classroom, but when there are things that go on at home, I can’t control those,” he said.

Marochino thinks teachers need to be evaluated, just like other professionals. But she said she worries that basing so much of a teacher’s evaluation on students’ performance on state tests is unfair, especially when some students don’t try hard on those tests. 

What do you think makes a good teacher? Join the conversation on Twitter at #teachereval #ohedchat.


  • retroleader

    No surpise here. Good teachers and higher socio economis status among students who actually attend class and don’t have to fear for their lives or wonder where their next meal will be. Neutralize the huge impact of poverty and all of its ramifications and our schools and student learnign stack upi favorably with the rest of the world.

  • Stephen Krashen

    Not mentioned is the fact that a number of studies have shown that rating teachers using test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacher’s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit


    Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Vary from year to
    year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality
    and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER.
    (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.)
    Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student
    Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607

  • Alice in PA

    It is scary that no one sees the insanity of using test scores and some secret algorithm to “judge” teachers. VAM may (and that is a big may) work to give some general idea with a population of 10,000 students but it is worthless with a sample size of 30 students.
    Not to mention that there is so much more to school than test scores.

  • Sue Dembski

    The major fallacy in using value added scores for the whole population is that they don’t take into account socioeconomic status, culture or district size. One size fits all concept. In districts where there are many students from stable or relatively stable backgrounds the scores will be better. However, in districts where students are passed from person to person or have no home at all the results will be expectantly lower. We as teachers are supposed to just overcome any and all obstacles with our skill and resources. The state needs to take into account all the factors associated with a student before passing judgement on the effectiveness of that student’s teachers. If they truly are concerned with the individual child then the whole child would be considered as part of any evaluation.

    • duckmonkeyman

      EVAAS is one big fudge after another. Too many of these adjustments and the model becomes meaningless.

  • Rep Voter

    Only 505 days till this Republican in Cincinnati votes for a Democratic Governor!

  • Ryan

    In this article, these two teachers do nothing different than countless other educators across the state. We all stay late, work our lunches, help kids when we can, and do everything we can to make our classroom engaging and challenging. No teacher I have ever met can actually explain what helps their students achieve at advanced/accelerated levels, which gives credence to those that argue it is a statement more on socioeconomic status, home life, and innate ability than anything that happens in the classroom.

  • duckmonkeyman

    The fundemental flaw of EVAAS is that it assumes standardized tests are a meaningful measure of learning. When my 8th grader finished OAA this year she said how it was nice to get them over with so they could go back to “real” school and actually learning. Perhaps lawmakers and the quants at SAS should learn something by listening to the wiser students. There are also many other assumptions and adjustments (“fudge factors”) on EVAAS such as trying to normalize tests (NCE), handling missing data, students and teachers changing subjects, team teaching and intervention impact. One ODE document actually makes the dubious claim they can predict a students performance in high school from a 4th grade test. Sure we can take the “experts” word that these models are perfectly suited to judge and fire teachers, but science requires proof.

  • Morgan

    I am noticing that both teachers cited in this article are teaching “advanced” sections in their discipline.
    It would be great to see some cross comparison of these ratings with the socioeconomics of the student populations and also the “level” (advanced, regular, remedial) within grade levels.

  • Mark J. Slutz

    I’ve noticed that these two teachers work in Green. I suspect most of their students come to school much better prepared to handle the fifth grade curriculum than my fifth graders at the inner city Akron building I teach at. Many of my students enter my room with Reading and Math skills at a second grade level.

  • avengeflipper

    I have been a teacher for seven years. I have to admit, this is the first year I’ve honestly considered finding a job outside of education. I have seen students who write detailed essays on classroom work choose to write two sentences on written test prompts. I have seen students totally uninterested in testing appear to just rush through the test without really reading the questions. I teach students. I know that there are students who will not perform well if there is not a grade involved. Until the OGT, there really isn’t anything attached to doing poorly on a standardized test.

    I teach students who are on the lower end of the economic scale. Many have had major health problems or family situational issues that have caused their families to switch to an online school. I cannot control what goes on in their home. I cannot control whether their parents do homework with them or help them learn.

    Look in lower economic school districts and you’ll find many teachers who don’t meet value added for two years. Is it because they are ad teachers? Is it because kids aren’t going to do well when there isn’t anything in it for them? Why would anyone teach in one of these schools if it puts their licensure in danger?

    Incidentally, I’ve already heard it said that a great way to get revenge on a mean teacher is to fail the tests. Mean teachers? Some of the teachers I learned the most from in school might have been considered mean.

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