Between Scylla and Charybdis: Reflections on and problems associated with the evaluation of teachers in an era of metrification


  • David C. Berliner Arizona State University



Teacher evaluation, bad teachers, standardized achievement tests, observational instruments, classroom observations, construct validation, duties-based teacher evaluation


The Scylla and Charybdis in this discussion of teacher evaluation are standardized achievement test data on the one hand, and classroom observational systems on the other. These are the two most common methods used to judge teachers’ competency.  Both have serious flaws: the former primarily with validity, the latter primarily with reliability. At most these evaluation strategies provide teachers’ and their supervisors information about which to converse. But these two methods have such serious flaws that they should never be used as the primary grounds for rewarding, punishing, or firing teachers.  When both methods of evaluation are used to judge teacher competency, the correlation between achievement tests and observational data is quite low. When two methods claiming to assess the same construct do not correlate well, either one or both methods are failing to assess the intended construct.  There are two alternatives for navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: “Duties Based Teacher Evaluation” and “Performance Measures.”  These methods have much to recommend them, though like all methods of personnel evaluation, reliability and validity issues remain problematic.


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Author Biography

David C. Berliner, Arizona State University

David C. Berliner is Regents’ Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Arizona State University. He has also taught at the Universities of Arizona and Massachusetts, at Teachers College and Stanford University, and at universities in Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and Switzerland. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, the International Academy of Education, and a past president of both the American Educational Research Association [AERA] and the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association [APA]. He has won numerous awards for his work on behalf of the education profession, and authored or co-authored over 400 articles, chapters and books. Among his best known works are the six editions of the text Educational Psychology, co-authored with N. L. Gage; The Manufactured Crisis, co-authored with B. J. Biddle; Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts American Education, co-authored with Sharon Nichols; and 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools, co-authored with Gene V Glass. He co-edited the first Handbook of Educational Psychology and the books, Talks to Teachers, Perspectives on Instructional Time, andPutting Research to Work in Your School.




How to Cite

Berliner, D. C. (2018). Between Scylla and Charybdis: Reflections on and problems associated with the evaluation of teachers in an era of metrification. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26, 54.



Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Educational Evaluation