Care2 blogger Judy Molland recently wrote about Who’s To Blame” Parents, or Kids? in regard to the “controversial question of whether parents, teachers or children are most to blame when a child fails to learn.” New York City education officials have been focusing on teachers: The New York Times reports that more than a dozen new standardized tests are being developed to administer to elementary, middle and high school students. But the purpose of the new tests is to measure teacher performance, as reflected in how students score on the tests.
There’s a lot at stake here. 40% of a teacher’s grade is to be based on these tests or on “rigorous, comparable” measures of student performance, says the New York Times. The new evaluation criteria are part of a “statewide overhaul” of how teachers are evaluated, following New York winning $700 million in the federal Race to the Top competition. One condition of winning the grant money is that the state has to devise new ways to evaluate teachers on a scale from “ineffective” to “highly effective”; get an “ineffective” ranking two years in a row and you face firing.
The remaining 60% of a teacher’s grade would be determined by “more subjective measures,” including observations by principals.
The New York Times also says that the tests will not be multiple choice tests such as the state already uses:
A proposal given to testing companies for bids in April asks that the exams be based around tasks, like asking students to progress through a multistep math problem, modify a science experiment to get a different result, or write a persuasive essay. They should also reflect the more rigorous Common Core academic standards that New York and other states have adopted.
Each test is to take up to a class period or two and should “ideally be similar to a regular classroom assignment.”
Parents have expressed frustrations about their children having to sit for yet more tests:
Despite the city’s optimism, the prospect of more tests, particularly ones that will have a direct influence on teachers, is causing dismay among those who believe that students already spend too much time preparing for exams and not enough on the broader goals of education, like social and emotional development.
“We are not focusing on teaching and learning anymore; we are focusing on collecting data,” said Lisa B. Donlan, a parent in Manhattan who has advocated against standardized testing.
Indeed, when similar tests were tried in Kentucky, they were abandoned because results from year to year could not be compared. Also, teachers were — not surprisingly, considering that teachers keeping their jobs is being directly linked to their students’ performance on the tests — having students “practice the particular skills they knew would be tested, meaning the exam was measuring test preparation, not necessarily broader learning.”
State officials have also yet to seek feedback from the teachers’ union, something that surprises “union officials, because their consent is needed under the teacher evaluation law before the exams can be used.”
Should teachers’ performance, and their jobs, be so closely tied to how students score on these new standardized tests? Should other factors count more?
Photo by Julie Lindsay.