Kicking Around Ideas About Classroom Technology at MyClassHQ
Posted by Kenny on May 1st, 2012
I read a brief but insightful opinion piece on test scores this morning, and just had to contribute. Standardized testing is something I’ve always worried about — primarily the assumptions people gather from it when evaluating teachers.
Are standardized tests an accurate way of measuring a teacher’s effectiveness based on student’s performance increases year-to-year?
The LA Times seems to think so, because every year they publish the “Teacher Ratings,” an index of LA-area teachers with accompanying data on how they performed relative to other teachers.
The LA Times does this under the auspices of providing the public with data they have the right to see. If they had called it “Student Performance By Class”, we might agree that’s what they are doing. But instead, they are very clear that they attempt to “rate” teachers in the area based on test scores!
It’s not perfect. It couldn’t be perfect. Even they say it’s not perfect. But we worry that the general public will take that data as gospel truth when they evaluate teachers, regardless of any disclaimers to the validity of it.
So why do we think test scores aren’t such a great measure?
1. The average profile of the same x-th grade class in a single school can vary widely
Students with learning disabilities may often be grouped in a single classroom because multiple teachers with the right certifications to teach those students are simply not available. This happens more often than you think due to strict state standards and the lack of an education budget. Which classes will appear to be more performant?
2. They do not always take a student’s learning style into account
Schools and their teachers often go to great lengths to differentiate instruction, teach in different ways, and use other strategies to boost the effectiveness of their lessons. Why? Because it’s widely recognized that some students understand better based on whether they hear or read something, have it repeated slowly, rephrased aloud, etc.
But when it comes to standardized tests, those strategies often go right out the window in a high-stakes, one-size-fits-all battery of tests. How do we expect students to perform in these cases?
3. It encourages some educators to teach to the test
When teacher performance is being measured so publicly (by the way, New York State is also making score data available this year), there is serious incentive to teach material on the test. Amidst constant political chatter regarding teacher pay, performance, educational spending cuts, all with a post-2008 financial backdrop, it’s easy to see that some teachers want to keep the basic security of their job. No one wants to be publicly humiliated by having their scores posted, and everyone has the basic need for security (see Maslow).
Teaching to the test hurts a student’s long-term educational growth, but standardized testing practically begs it.
The reasons listed above really cloud initial clarity that test scores purport to yield. And if we concede that they give us such imperfect data, why does the general public seem so reliant on them for evaluating teachers? Perhaps it’s because it’s one of the only metrics available? Maybe it’s because when you represent someone’s effectiveness as a teacher with a single number, it’s deceptively easy and attractive to sort, rank, and evaluate?
Just our two cents, but we’d love to hear from you! Comment below, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow @MyClassHQ
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