Friday, October 03, 2008

Teachers to Be Measured Based on Students’ Standardized Test Scores


New York City is beginning to measure the performance of thousands of elementary and middle school teachers based on how much their students improve on annual state math and reading tests.

To avoid a contentious fight with the teachers’ union, the New York City Department of Education has agreed not to make public the reports — which described teachers as average, below average or above average with various types of students — nor let them influence formal job evaluations, pay and promotions.

Rather, according to a memo to principals from Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, sent on Wednesday night, the reports are designed to be guides for the teachers themselves to better understand their achievements and shortcomings.

“They won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process,” the memo said. “Many of you have told us how useful it would be to better understand how your efforts are influencing student progress.”

Still, even without formal consequences for teachers, the plan is likely to anger teachers and parents who are already critical of the increasing emphasis on standardized test scores as a substitute for judging school quality. It follows the city’s much-debated issuance of report cards labeling individual schools A through F largely on the basis of student improvement on state exams.

The State Legislature this spring prohibited the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions. The new measurement system — called “teacher data reports” — is an expansion of a pilot program that the city began in January involving about 2,500 teachers at 140 schools. The pilot program was so controversial that several participating principals did not tell teachers they were being monitored.

Christopher Cerf, the deputy chancellor overseeing the program, said it was important to get teachers “comfortable with the data, in a positive, affirming way.”

“The information in here is a really, really important way to foster change and improvement,” he said. “We don’t want people to be threatened by this.”

Entire Article

So let me get this straight, we are going to compare teachers using standardized test scores, scores are not going to be published, not going to be used in job performance evaluations, and not going to be rewarded with pay. Why are we spending money on this research if we are not going to use the results? Does three term mayor guy know someone with a compnay who has a contract in data crunching?


Mr Tesler said...

Of course, they're not going to be used "formally." However, we all know that much of what goes on in schools is entirely informal. The pressure put on struggling teachers, teachers with tough classes, and the lauding of the teachers who have the "good" kids, the "SP" classes.

Moreover, what if you have kids who are already performing on a high level, and just maintain that level, or maybe dip slightly? That shows up as "not making improvement." Following that logic, if I go to college and get an A in Math 101, and then get an A- in Math 102, have I failed to make progress? Should my college get a "bad grade?" Was it an achievement for my prof in Semester 1, and a shortcoming in Semester 2?

There are way too many conflicting variables for any of these measurements to be valid. It just seems to me that all of these measuring sticks seem to be things that would/could be borrowed from the typical affluent suburban school district, where just about every kid is on the same level playing field. Go to Great Neck, Syosset, Plainview, and you will not find the variance of students that you will find in even high-achieving NYC schools.

"Standardized," to me basically means bringing "Coal to New Castle;" enfranchising those already enfranchised, and disenfranchising the disenfranchised. You can't force everyone through the same system.

W Brown said...


I love the college example. However there is big money measuring and sorting students and I guess teachers.

With these standardized exams, and numerical values placed on teachers how can we ensure the taxpayers that their money is being well spent?

(just a thought!)

Mr Tesler said...

I guess the only way we'll know if the money's well-spent is the end product. At the end of 12-13 years of public education, what skills, abilities, knowledge does that 17-18 year old son or daughter of yours have to offer you? Can he/she advocate for themselves? Can he/she think critically? Think outside the box? Use technology in an effective, ethical manner? Will he/she have a set of core values to guide them?

Will students get this from scantrons, #2 pencils, and test prep?

My question is...Who's getting this money, and why? And, if "it doesn't mean anything," why is it being spent in the first place? School budgets are being drained, kids don't have books, but there's money for this "fact-finding, blue ribbon" study (a little revenge of the nerds quote)?

Eric said...

As ever, the question is not what does the teacher teach, but what does the student learn.

Given the multiple problems in standardized test design - see today's oped in the New York Times on why reading samples should echo course content, this sort of financial reward remains very problematic. It also encourages institutional cheating by providing a clear reason for many students, teachers, and administrators to collaborate in fraud.
Let's at least require the use of active skills like writing on all standardized English and Social Science exams - and avoid simple, dangerous ideas like test scores reflect teacher input alone.