Monday, August 29, 2011

My Thoughts: NY's Ruling on the Use of Standardized Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations

I recently read the article Court Limits Use of Standardized Tests to Evaluate NY Teachers at the request of the VIVA project.  Below you'll see the prompt from VIVA as well as the response that I posted on Edweb

This week, the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York State United Teachers in a case that challenged the state's plan to base 40 percent of a teachers' evaluation on standardized student test scores. The judge ruled the state could use standardized test scores for only 20 percent of a teacher evaluation.

We would love to hear what you think. Take a look at these three stories about the ruling, one from Education Week, one from the NY Times and one from Huffington Post:
Then let us know your reaction to this news. Is it much ado about nothing? Is it a ridiculous waste of union and public resources to litigate this question? Is the union right? Wrong?

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Melissa Wauneka - 1 hr 30 min ago - Aug 29, 2011 2:37 pm (#1 Total: 1)   Edit this messageDelete this messageReply to this message

Posts: 10
As always, I'm torn about whether it is a good idea to use students' test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  On the one hand, we need more stringint evaluations than are currently in place - where teachers are nearly always deemed at least satisfactory and left alone to continue doing what they're doing.  Yet using test scores seems to incentivize things like teaching to a test and/or outright cheating.
In my mind, standardized test scores certainly have a place in our educational system.  They illuminate the gaps that exist between low-income and high-income school districts and I'm glad that the education community is at least talking about what kinds of outcomes we should be looking for in low-income communities - test scores or not.  I also think test scores give teachers and students a very concrete, results-oriented goal to shoot for - instead of just "getting through" the curriculum or meandering through a set of lessons until time runs out.  I, for example, know that the test is coming up and that my students' scores depend on the material that I've actually taught them before that test lands on their desk.  If there were no test scores to care about, I certainly wouldn't have the same sense of urgency that is so necessary in low-performing public schools, where students fall further and further behind each year.
Yes, scores also depends on students' reading levels, test-taking skills, and their attendance (during the school year and during test dates), among other things.  They depend on lots of things that are out of teachers' control.  And they cause teachers (me anyway) to wonder whether it's worth it to assign things like projects, because they take time away from learning content in the format of the test (although I have come to think that projects help kids retain what they've learned - which is always good for "the test").
And my point is.... I don't really know what to think about blocking NY from using test scores as 40% of a teacher's evaluation.  To me, 40% sounds about right - considering the limitations of the test.  I'm wondering what constituted a teacher being deemed "ineffective" and what professional development opportunities were in place to help teachers whose scores weren't high enough.  I wish NY would have tried out the new teacher evaluations instead of going to court before ever finding out whether they made a difference.  My state - NM - is attempting to put similar, new teacher evaluations (50% based on student performance) in place.
I personally don't think they'll be enough to, in and of themselves, make a difference in teaching quality or test scores.  It will really depend on the implementation levels.  And whether there are teachers in line to replace those "ineffective" teachers.  We'll see.

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