Grading Teachers By Testing Students

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.


Gale Johansen
Gale Johansen6 years ago

Education in the U.S. is an absolute nightmare...and getting worse by the second. While the various levels of government try to look like they're doing something...anything to deal with the crisis, the real problems, which are beyond the ability of anyone to quickly or easily fix, simply are not addressed or even acknowledged. And as with any bureaucracy, the best way to deflect blame from yourself is to blame someone else, loudly and incessantly, and so the teachers are usually the targets. The real problem is the system, children are hard-wired to seek learning, as anyone that has spent time with a toddler should know. But our traditional system of education somehow manages, very efficiently and in a relatively short time to, short circuit that innate need to learn in many children so learning becomes a chore rather than the wonder of everyday discovery. There are many alternative methods, I myself, spent a large part of my adult life associated with Montessori. Our family, along with several other families, founded and built a school and my child attended Montessori schools, beginning with a child-parent infant group, through high school. I have seen what happens when children are provided with the system and support they need to become self-directed learners and believe me, once they do it is hard to stop them. So please stop blaming teachers, they are prisoners of the same failed system as the students, let's all join in a national discussion of what can be done to chang

Norma J F Harrison

Teaching is the appropriationg for control, ultimately for profit, by the ruling class, of human behavior.
Teaching studying learning - we all do these with great delight, or would, if we were not making profit for our Owners.
The first thing we have to look at is age segregation; it has no place in healthy human society.
Another is testing. The test should come as part of everyday functioning; hmm - did I do this right? Did I get what a wanted from this. And so on that is only us being together doing what is necessary comfortably and what is comfortable.

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy6 years ago

pointless, if you want to find out if someone is a good teacher, watch them teach, or ask the students what they've learned in the class

Barbara K.
Barbara K6 years ago

There is so much inequity to teachers and students in this testing issue, so much misinformation, so much misunderstanding it really is disturbing.
first of all,a NY state law says a teacher evaluation can be no more than 20%, not 40%..this is an illegal move by NYSED.
Second, not all teachers have to give do we evaluate all fairly?
Then ,as many agree, the aim of education is subverted if one feels compelled to "teach to the test".
Also socio-economic factors play a role in student performance, factors teachers have no control over.
Doing well on one test is NOT indicative of future success. So many other things play a role, motivation, personality, diligence.
I taught for nearly 40 years, HS a poor,rural district. On the state test, I had 90-100% passing...guess what? they just did away with Foreign language state tests!
In addition to teaching Spanish,lacking ESL, they put newly arrived Span speakers in my class to learn English..but the best was the Korean kid..who came speaking Korean and Span!
And I see so many do not understand the challenges facing teachers, like "Pat" :dealing with difficult students, getting degrees, workshops, training, the owrk you must bring home.
For the granddaughter with test anxiety:get her help! start with guidance counselor.
and kudos to Wendy!

christopher murray

How about blaming text books. I've read my nieces amnd nephews textbooks and those things do nothing but waste trees. They are empty fluff with pop culture factiods.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Just breaking the last in first out seniority rule would enable school districts to fire all their expensive experienced teachers and replace them with much cheaper teachers fresh out of college, saving the local taxpayers a lot of money. Chaos would reign and the students would learn very little, but the local taxpayers would get off very cheap.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

I think standardized tests are stupid. Some kids perform poorly on those, even if they're acing the coursework. It's regurgitation, not learning, and it shows nothing.

Not to mention that the results don't show the whole story. Remember that movie from the 80's called "Summer School"? Some of these kids were failing so miserably that the next step was dropping out. The one teacher brought them from a class average of 40% to a class average of 60%, or something like that... So, given that the students, on a standardized test would get 60%, at face value, looks bad... but when you see they went up 20%, then that's a huge improvement.

This idea sounds retarded, if you ask me.

Pat V.
Pat V6 years ago

Teaching an "easy" job? You try teaching 7th-8th. Grade Science with 25-30 kids in each class, a few "non-English" speaking, a few "Special Ed., "Meth. addicts" for parents, in a low income/low educated community AND receiving low pay even AFTER "Tenure" and that's WITH a Master's Degree. All this and the uninformed (and those that SHOULD be informed) thinking that teachers should be judged on class test results...Shame on America.
It is amazing anyone wants to become a teacher today.

Mick R.
Mick R6 years ago

Unless we address all the socio-economic factors which are helping to cause our problems with education, standardized tests will certainly not be that helpful in showing which teachers are effective and which are not. Once we start looking at how the two bread winner scenario, the massive influx of non-English speakers (on a continual basis), the ongoing reduction in funding, whether by budget cuts or by putting money into charter schools and the many other significant factors that have drastically changed in our society we might actually get a handle on some reasonable approaches to solutions.

Ahren A.
Past Member 6 years ago

Cohersing teachers, on a national level, to subjugate themselves and submit (or they'll be fired) to monkey train students to "pass tests" (uniform) is equivalent to turning the nation into a BORG nation where everybody thinks the same and has no individual free thought.