Thursday, March 1, 2012

Judging Teachers via Test Scores

I've written before that the US is the anti-model for how to reform education.

Well, they are up to it again. This time New York has released a new way of evaluating teachers.

Diane Ravitch explains:

Last week, the New York State Education Department and the teachers’ unions reached an agreement to allow the state to use student test scores to evaluate teachers. The pact was brought to a conclusion after Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the parties that if they didn’t come to an agreement quickly, he would impose his own solution (though he did not explain what that would be). He further told school districts that they would lose future state aid if they didn’t promptly implement the agreement after it was released to the public. The reason for this urgency was to secure $700 million promised to the state by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, contingent on the state’s creating a plan to evaluate teachers in relation to their students’ test scores.

The new evaluation system pretends to be balanced, but it is not. Teachers will be ranked on a scale of 1-100. Teachers will be rated as “ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective.” Forty percent of their grade will be based on the rise or fall of student test scores; the other sixty percent will be based on other measures, such as classroom observations by principals, independent evaluators, and peers, plus feedback from students and parents.

But one sentence in the agreement shows what matters most: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.” What this means is that a teacher who does not raise test scores will be found ineffective overall, no matter how well he or she does with the remaining sixty percent. In other words, the 40 percent allocated to student performance actually counts for 100 percent. Two years of ineffective ratings and the teacher is fired.

As an Albertan, I have seen signs that our education system is perhaps moving in a very different direction than the US.

However when I see someone like Jim Dueck featured in the Edmonton Journal, and Rutherford talk radio show, I get worried.

I get worried because Jim Dueck is involved in reviewing applications for competition for federal funding under Race to the Top. And it is because of Race to the Top that many states are marrying standardized test scores to teacher evaluations.

Next time someone like Jim Dueck gets air time on the radio or face time with the minister of education, I wish they would bring all this to the public's attention.

Canadians should not be too quick to dismiss the idea that the lunacy of high stakes standardized testing, vilification of teachers, merit pay and other corporate reforms can come to Canada.

The 49th parallel does not offer some kind of inherent insulator to this madness.

We must all be aware that all it takes for destructive education reforms to become reality is for good teachers, parents & students to say and do nothing.

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