This file image shows teens sitting in a classroom and...

This file image shows teens sitting in a classroom and raising hands to answer aquestion. Credit: iStock

Responding to the nationwide furor over evaluating teachers based on students' test scores, two think-tanks published reports this week to answer whether better scores reflect better teaching.

The first was inconclusive, and the second, smaller study, said there seems to be no relation between test scores and "good teaching."

The first, by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the left-of-center Brookings Institution, looked at four mid-sized urban school districts "in the forefront of the effort to evaluate teachers meaningfully." The districts were not identified by name, and classroom observation counted for 40 percent to 70 percent of a teacher's grade.

Brookings found that classroom observation was "a more stable" measure than gain in student test scores. In other words, test scores went up or down, but teacher ratings didn't vary as much from one year to the next.

"This may be due, in part, to observations typically being conducted by school administrators who have preconceived ideas about a teacher's effectiveness," said the report.

Brookings recommends using classroom observers from outside the school, and the study goes into more detail about how to use this tool to help teachers reflect on their methods and grow.

Another study appearing in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis recruited and surveyed 324 teachers from New York City, Dallas, Denver, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Memphis and Hillsborough County, Fla.

The researchers looked at whether teaching-to-the-test -- or instructional alignment -- related to other measures of effective teaching. They found it did not.

"While [student growth] measures do provide some useful information, our findings show that they are not picking up the things we think of as being good teaching," said co-author Morgan Polikoff of the University of Southern California. "Given the growing extent to which states are using these measures for a wide array of decisions, our findings are troubling."

Very likely, this won't be the last word on the subject.