New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests. The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement. While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public. [Emphasis mine.]
And this quote by a deputy schools chancellor:
â€œIf the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city â€” every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will â€” that will have been a powerful step forward…If you know as a parent whatâ€™s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.â€
Whose behavior? The kids? The parents? Does he mean learning? Say WHAT?
Let me just speak for myself. My behavior change would be to do everything possible to find for my children an alternative to a system that is basically treating teachers like unknowing lab rats and treating my kids as if their individual talents, loves, and passions should have little or nothing to do with the how or what they learn.
The effort comes as educators nationwide are struggling to figure out how to find, train and measure good teachers.
Well, gee. Let’s see. Sounds like a perfect job to me. I know dozens of “good” teachers who are just waiting to be “found” and “trained” and “measured”. Where do I tell them to sign up?
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Amen!!! Amen!!! Amen!!! Couldn’t be said better.
Good luck at the job fair recruitment.
Hoo Wee! What’s this world coming to? And we talk about wanting students to have core values ingrained by the time they leave K – 12. How is this going to let students see positive role models in the classroom??? How scary!
Dana Huff says
Wow. This kind of thing is going to be the death of real learning in the classroom.
Lisa Parisi says
Everytime I think things are going forward (NCLB not being passed again), I find us taking 5 steps backwards. Guess administrators just want us to teach to the test. That’s easy to do. What are we all killing ourselves for? Oh yeah, we care about the kids. (Did the administrators forget about them?)
Lisa Linn says
This makes me sick! Why do we keep killing ourselves to make things better, more meaningful, and relevant, when what we do is trivalized to this degree?
And I really thought the east coast was leagues ahead of the west. I is evident by the above that idiocy and ignorance are prevalent everywhere.
Critical thinking? uuuuhhhh, what’s that?
In most cases, a teacher has little control over class lists and must interact with children who may or may not be capable of meeting standards within a mandated timeline.
Maybe schools could raise money by having an auction: What am I bid for Student A, who always meet or exceeds goals and will guarantee you a fat bonus? Who wants Student B, good attitude, involved parents?
I once worked in a large district with neighborhood elementary schools. All of the special needs children were bused to one particular site to share a classroom. How do you think that school’s scores compared to those of the other three schools?
I’m glad neither of my children decided on a career in teaching.
Paul R says
Even the auction idea doesn’t work because if they measure teachers as they measure schools, 55% of the grade will be positive test score movement from year to year and the higher the scores, the tougher it is to raise them. That’s where my school which has among the highest test scores in NY State only gets a B. Much as it sounds good to the layman, it’s unrealistic to expect forward movement yearly on standardized tests. They’re not designed that way. So even if you assume for a moment that test scores are the only thing that’s important (a concept that gives me the runs), these tests are not the way to measure that. And interestly, the union has known about this for months and said nothing. I voted with my feet and moved out of NYC years ago to the suburbs. Hopefully like with any other fad, this teach to the test and everything else be damned attitude will die an early death as soon as possible. Tell me what candidates will make that happen and I can deal with their negatives. Sadly I don’t any of the current crop have the necessary strong feelings.
Good point, Paul R!
I guess the best plan would be to recruit a hopelessly moronic group the first year and gradually “up the ante” each year thereafter until you retire or find a more congenial career. This would be possible so long as they continue to compare totally different groups of students each year.
What are we doing to our schools, out teachers, and, most importantly, our children?
Oh dear. I am a mid-life career changer to education and you guys are scaring me. This scenario reminds of a friend who went to weight watchers and the first week wore a heavy sweater and shoes when she weighed in. Each week she peeled off a layer of clothes and maybe some body weight but who knows what the data was actually showing. She is an adult. This is an irresponsible way to behave toward certain children.
a. woody delauder says
I read this article earlier today. I seem to find myself writing about the same ill functioning education system over and over. I decided not to write about it. I am glad, because you said it for me.
Wm Chamberlain says
Do real teachers care? I don’t teach for the money, the respect, or the summers off. I teach because the children need to learn from someone who cares for them. That is the only thing another profession can’t replace. I love my students and I will be d*mned if I will allow any testing to replace that. I encourage you to remember that is why we do what we do.
Paul R says
The problem as I see it is multi-fold.
1. Everyone cannot be better than average. You can tweak the average over time but standardized tests are designed in such a way that if they’re truly measuring what they’re designed to measure, you’d get relatively stable scores around a specific number that, over time, you can hone in on, and move slightly.
2. The more important you make the test and less important you make everything else, the more you encourage schools and teachers to narrow the curriculum to only what can be measured by such tests which isn’t stupid, it’s criminal.
3. Most students bounce around from year to year with the majority bounced slightly and the outliers bouncing back and forth. To measure anything (a school, a teacher, using the small sample size of a few classes over a single year) using the methodology NYC is using, is simply bad statistics and completely shortsighted.
4. Nobody seems to be asking parents what THEY want for THEIR children. If they did, none of this would happen based on my experience. Most parents inherently know high stakes testing is being mis-used but somebody like Bloomberg has so much money and so much influence with the media, that he can get away with stuff the average politician couldn’t hope to try.
5. This is no way to go about attracting quality teachers to the NYC school system and no way to retain those who should be retained.
Will Richardson says
@wm chamberlin– Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your motivations and I may very well want you to teach my kids, but don’t miss the point. With that approach, you won’t be teaching my kids in the New York City school system for very long.
@Paul R.– I agree in large part, but in terms of #4, I think parents by and large want a way to measure what their kids know. Problem is, the SAT and NCLB and all the rest have set that up to make the only way to do that by a standardized test. In other words, I think a lot of parents want the test because they can’t visualize an alternative.
Thank you for speaking from the viewpoint of a parent as well as an eductor as to how this treats children. We recognize how wrong this is for our students, but we rarely put it into words in the way you did. It’s so easy for us to focus on how this goes against everything we believe about how best to teach children that we can forget that it also sends a message to those children about our expectations and beliefs in them. They deserve better and we have to keep advocating on their behalf.
Lisa Linn says
Quote by Art Costa sums it up:
“What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value.”
Paul R says
I am very much in favor of testing kids. But we need to test kids to figure out what they still don’t know (as compared to the minimal expectations of said tests) and perhaps address some of the specifics for individual kids and groups of kids. Where I’m at odds with testing is using it to pass high stakes judgements. The moment you do that, you distort their purpose. NYC has two systems in place to evaluate schools. One is strictly on test results in two subjects. The other has someone come in for 2 days and evaluate all sorts of things (though in all fairness, it’s still too test and data oriented to work well with children). It doesn’t take a genius to spend two days in a school interviewing the faculty, administration, parents and students to get a general sense as to whether the school is reasonably well run. In combination with test results, you can draw some conclusions. But that’s not what’s happening in NYC.
This is a great site to talk about instructional technology use in schools but do you honestly believe schools are going to do things like blogging, wiki’s, RSS and the like when all that matters is test results. Schools will do the obvious: more time in traditional classrooms, more test prep, a narrowing of the curriculum where there is testing, and reduction altogether of curriculum that isn’t being tested. And forget about things like art, music, physical education and the like. I have four kids in grades ranging from 3rd to 12th. I want them to do well on their tests. But at no point in time when I decided where to move in NJ did I ask about the district or school’s test scores. I know those will come with a well paid stable faculty, small class size, a commitment to the use of instructional technology, a good budget for books and other materials, a well spoken accessible administration, and specialized programs for those that need them. If a parent puts test scores above those things, they are setting themselves up for disappointment.
Brandt Schneider says
Teach for America has been measuring their teachers in a similar format for years, I believe. Those new teachers are expected to show significant gains and improve their students by more than one years grade level. I think if new teachers, who are at the poorest schools, can use that data effectively in that program (I think they average more than 1 grade level added value per year) then maybe it might be OK to look at the process.
Rick Wade says
The day I can recruit my students as football teams pick its players, and am given the autonomy to decide what my students need i.e. design and run the plays, that is the day I am going to accept a test score as my judge. Right now there are too many factors affecting how a student learns that are out of a teachers control.
So veteran teacher who may be mailing it in teaching AP kids looks like a hero while the special needs teacher who may work daily miracles loses their tenure. Sounds like a brilliant idea to me.
Paul R says
Actually the AP teacher could be the one worrying about tenure since NYC has devalued the actual test score and cares mostly about the year to year difference in test scores. Plus to my knowledge, high school AP courses have no impact on any consideration of a high school’s performance under the new system put in place this year. Regents scores yes but not so sure about advanced placement anything.
Test scores mostly refer to the state tests measuring grade level performance in math and english. At K-8, those scores represent 85% of what makes or breaks a school these days.