Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Principals Oppose Judging Teachers by Test Scores

An interesting movement is afoot with the news around "The Letter," a formal letter written to the New York Legislature which opposes the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. It's been signed by nearly 1,400 principals and thousands of educators, and it is an argument against perhaps the most dubious of reforms to grow out of No Child Left Behind.

Apparently, in New York, legislation will now require that between 20-40% of a teacher's evaluation must be based on standardized, state test scores. This is, of course, part of the accountability movement. And it's really a simple argument to make. If students aren't performing well on these tests, then the teacher is clearly not effective. However, such conclusion really aren't, and shouldn't be, so "clear."

The predominant problem for such evaluations is the idea of a "snapshot" being able to accurately judge a years worth of content, curriculum, technique, and educational experience. Additionally, the issue of student motivation is key when these are state tests - ones for which students have absolutely no skin in the game. If the tests are not for a grade and they are not used by colleges, many students have no incentive to do well. Occasionally, even state mandated ACTs have no incentive because students may not have college plans.

Teachers in Colorado should be even more interested in this, as Senate Bill 191 has now designated standardized test scores comprise 50% of a teacher's evaluation by 2014. This will be particularly problematic, as currently the state does not have a testing system for the subject areas of 70% of teachers. How do you standardized test the art, music, gym, language, and elective teachers? And if you can't, how can you fairly evaluate all teachers.

It's certainly a problem.


mrelliott said...

I want to know when the accountability movement is going to hold students accountable for their education? Wouldn't that be refreshing?

mmazenko said...

It's certainly a huge chunk of the problem, Mr. E. And, we are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't put the responsibility significantly on the student.