Monday, February 1, 2010

Bastardized Accountability

This is an excerpt from Collateral Damage: How Hight Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools by Sharon Nichols and David Berliner

A dedicated eigth-grade math teacher we know told us that in one year he went from being a celebrated, successful teacher, to being required to attend "remedial" teaching workshops. We asked, "What happened?" In the first year, he said, he taught students who were relatively motivated and interested in the subject. Although these students struggled throughtout the year to grasp the mathematics he was teaching, their motivation and his teaching efforts resulted in significant learning, as reflected in his students' "acceptable" test score performance. The teacher was asked to lead workshops to share his techniques with less successful colleagues. The very next year, however, he saw an influx of students with speacial learning needs or for whom English was a second language. Still, he went to work doing everything he knew how to do - employing the same tactics that made him a "success" the previous year. He made more home visits than he ever had before and stayed after school to tutor as many students as possible - all without extra support. In the end, all that mattered were the test scores. The principal, seeing practice test scores that were consistently low throughout the fall and early spring terms, actually asked the teacher to attend the same workshops he once taught so he could "improve" his teaching.

"How can we recognize good teaching and work to improve it," the teacher asked us, "in an atmosphere of such confusion?"

When I hear politicans who are not directly involved in the education of our children speak about accountabiliy, I think of stories like this.

More times than not, this is the kind of crap that is a result of today's top-down, high-stake, reward and punish brand of accountability.

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