Monday, March 7, 2011

Do teachers cause test scores to rise?

If you want to know more about testing, assessment and psychometrics, then the entire 20 minute video is well worth your time. Either way, I found this quote at 8:30:

We don't buy the causal link when we say "John grew 3 inches because he was in Mrs. Jones's class. Why should we believe that John gained 10 points because he was in Mrs. Jones's class? 
To know if Mrs. Jones caused this, we would have to know the counter factual. That is, we would have to know how many points John would have gained in someone else's class. But we don't know that.

How can we, in all good conscience, make these inferences?


  1. Joe, I thank you for sharing this video. I find it interesting that a statistician is citing the pitfalls of testing. He makes it quite clear that we can not create a direct correlation between test scores and teacher effectiveness. My question then becomes, does pedagogy make a difference then? If a child were to perform one way in a child - centered classroom would s/he perform any differently in a teacher - centered classroom?

    Towards the end he speaks of testing (control samples) to see if something will work. I suppose this is where the theory of PLCs come in to play. Their intention being that everyone be on the same page at the same time with the same resources and approach. The end result determining which approach works. Personally, I call this scripting, and am leery of anything that requires uniformity/conformity in teaching.

  2. Tracy, is that really the goal of PLC work? I think that the goal of PLC's is to find ways to improve student learning. What you're describing sounds to me like an initiative to create formative (or summative) assessments that are then given at the same point in a unit, in the same courses. In my experience that is different than PLC work. I work with a PLC at my school where we use common formative assessments when we need to. We do that to learn something about our students' understanding of certain concepts. Then we work toward finding ways to help our students learn the concepts better.


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