Senator Charles Shumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi have published their collective ideas supporting public education. Their 5-point proposal can be found in this USA Today article. I read their ideas with great interest, particularly as recent Democratic administration proposals have not been very supportive of Public Schools and the 90% of students who attend them. Take a look at the often high stakes test-reliant and misguided education policies like Every Child Succeeds or Race To The Top.
I often find it illuminating to read comments attached to news articles, even when my own views are in disagreement with the commentary. I like to try to understand what people who don’t live and breathe edu-issues think.
I try to stay above the fray and not get pulled into debates with anonymous readers. However, today, I couldn’t help myself. One comment at the end of the Shumer/Pelosi op-ed was predictably that teachers should be judged on the basis of student test scores.
As a former educator, and one who proctored high-stakes testing many, many times, I can’t disagree more. There are far too many outside factors that can – and do – influence a student’s performance on a standardized test, and quite a number of these influences are out of the classroom teacher’s control to mediate. Education is not the simple act of pouring knowledge into children.
So I broke my own rule this morning and responded to the comment. And this is what I wrote:
…., but I disagree with this. I was an elementary educator and unafraid to take on some of the most difficult to educate throughout my career. In the city in which I worked, that meant students who were learning English as they learned grade level skills and concepts, behaviorally and emotionally challenging students and those children who came from traumatic home situations. Tying my performance as an educator simply to test scores would not tell the whole story of whether or not I was an effective teacher. It would only tell whether or not my non-native English language speakers, special education, and economically diverse students could master a standardized test. Teacher effectiveness and evaluations need to include some holistic assessments and consideration of how academic growth can be influenced by outside factors.
A single measurement is not any way to assess whether or not a teacher is effective. Nor is it a way to measure whether a teacher deserves a merit pay bonus (spoiler alert: I think those merit bonuses kill the collaboration needed to fully support and educate a child).
Tying a student’s performance on a high-stakes assessment does not tell the story of whether or not a teacher is effective.