Want to evaluate teachers by student achievement? Fine, but we have to make it fair.
Nationwide Testing – Rant #2
10,109 days down – 66 left
As we complete our two week testing program I’m taking one last look down the long, slippery slope of nationwide student testing and how aspects of this growing trend are and will most certainly be misused.
“Let’s evaluate teachers on student achievement!” This clarion call is ringing through the rafters of state houses and on the airwaves of media everywhere. The believers espouse that this is the best way to assure that students will make progress and teachers will be held responsible. Okay, let’s do exactly that. In fact, I’m all for it, but let’s just make sure that it’s fair. It’s simple to do, but going to take some commitment and effort.
Step One: Make sure that every teacher’s class is equitable. It’s reasonable to make each section have about the same number of high achieving students, the wide group that inhabits the middle ground, and a few remedial students. Remember, it’s only fair!
Step Two: First week of school every student takes a pre-test in every single subject. That pre-test is designed by the school system for each separate curriculum area, whatever it is. Fourth grade Math, ninth grade Biology, twelfth grade Honors English. Throw away the state and federal exams, unless you’re willing to adopt a statewide curriculum for each subject. Perfect. Now we have a baseline for each student measured against the material to be taught. If we want, we can establish an average for the class. Teachers’ average scores for their classes ought to be pretty similar.
Step Three: Move forward through the year addressing the carefully designed curriculum, 185 school days later give a post-test. Simple: evaluate. Discuss the results with teachers, administrators and parents. What we are primarily looking for here is improvement and growth. We can’t guarantee solely on a comparison to the curriculum. There are just too many uncontrollable variables. What about Johnny who never does a lick of homework? Maybe he won’t improve at the same rate. But we can look student by student and a class average. Seems reasonable, seems simple. Maybe I’m missing something.
Here’s one last thing I detest. In our particular state we use something called a DRG (District Reference Group). It’s a group of cities or towns grouped together based on socio-economic status, indicators of need and enrollment size. Our school district is listed with 20 other towns that apparently are similar to us with regard to these three categories. I’ve been to most of these towns (it’s a small state) and we are no more like them than Mother Teresa is like Kim Kardashian. Our town has 57,000 people and a median income of $101,000. Another town in our DRG has 9,000 people and median income of $126,700. A third town has 64,700 people and median income of $78,000. Do you think they’re similar? I don’t.
But here’s the best part: the powers that be like to compare towns and their scores in each subject area for all grade levels. And where do they do this? They publish all the scores in state and local newspapers! To what purpose? How does this help anyone? Should we feel good if we’re on top? Terrible if we’re on the bottom? I never talk, confer or meet with anyone from any of those towns. It’s like the latest trend in New York City where individual teachers’ scores are published. This is nothing but educational Hunger Games. Let’s see who survives.
Photo credit: Flickr / Tulane Public Relations