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OP-ED | Using Standardized Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers Won’t Solve the Problem

by | Apr 19, 2016 12:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Education, Labor, Opinion

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Parents in America are not doing their jobs. Kids are growing up spoiled, obese, and irresponsible. Ineffective parenting, quite simply, is putting America’s future in jeopardy.

It’s high time we hold parents accountable. We must remove the ineffective parents from their positions.

To that end, I suggest all children take an annual standardized test to identify parents who are not cutting it. We should test kids’ fitness levels, dietary habits, and respect for authority. The parents of those kids scoring low will be put on probation until the next test. If those kids fail to improve their scores, the parents will face penalties, including losing custody.

As a result, ineffective parenting will be a thing of the past.

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. It’s like saying we can weed out the bad teachers by giving their students standardized tests every year.

It started with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002. This federal law required states to “test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.” The law also required schools to achieve “adequate yearly progress” or incur sanctions.

Thus, standardized tests under NCLB measured schools as much as they did students.

By 2012, Connecticut sought to include “quantitative targets” in the evaluation of every teacher, so the state piloted the new “System for Educator Evaluation and Development” (SEED) that aimed to use standardized test scores as that quantitative measure.

After hemming and hawing for several years over this new “metric-based” evaluation model, “the State Board of Education voted 8-1 [on Apr. 6] in favor of delaying for another year the coupling of standardized test scores and teacher evaluations.”

The decision was not universally popular.

Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), voiced her displeasure at the decision, as did Patrice McCarthy, deputy director and general counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

“Connecticut has the opportunity to be a leader,” McCarthy said. “It’s important to move forward on this initiative.’’

The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), lauded the decision, which was no surprise, considering the CEA had previously called for a permanent decoupling of teacher evaluations from standardized tests like the SBAC.

“The test was never designed to be an evaluator of teachers,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “To use it as 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation ends up skewing situations, and it is a deterrent to recruitment and retention of minority teachers.”

In addition, many Connecticut parents responded negatively in February to a proposed bill that would penalize them and their local school districts if their children opted out of SBAC.

So the debate continues. Policy makers and taxpayers want to hold teachers accountable, while the teachers’ union and certain parents don’t think standardized tests are the way to do it.

Neither does the American Statistical Association (ASA), which explains how the Value Added Measurements (VAMs) derived from standardized test scores to evaluate teachers “have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data.”

“These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling,” wrote the ASA. “A VAM score may provide teachers and administrators with information on their students’ performance and identify areas where improvement is needed, but it does not provide information on how to improve the teaching.”

But that’s the American Statistical Association. What does a professional organization comprised of statisticians know about testing, metrics, and, um, statistics?

In the end, standardized tests may look convincing as a means for measuring teachers with their numbers and percentages, but they simply cannot be connected empirically to teacher performance.

To be honest, I understand the desire to evaluate public-school teachers whose compensation comes from public tax dollars. I also realize some bad teachers are allowed to keep their jobs. But using standardized test scores will not solve the problem.

It’s like using standardized test scores of children to identify inept parents.

So, the question remains: What works when evaluating teachers? What works is a system like the one in place now, where teachers and administrators agree on measurable goals and where teachers are held accountable by administrators who observe them and confer with them throughout the school year.

As for standardized tests, their main use remains measuring how well kids take standardized tests.

Barth Keck is the father of three and an English teacher who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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