Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teacher Evaluations: Don't Judge the Mayor by Test Scores, but Teachers Are Fair Game

Hey, don't blame the Mayor or the Schools Chancellor when state test scores plummet, like they did in 2010. Standards are tougher now than they used to be. If the kids can't cut the new mustard, the thinking goes, it can't possibly be our fault, or so the thinking goes.

But it sure could be the teachers' fault. The Board of Regents is so sure of that that they're willing to stake up to 40 percent of teachers' total evaluation scores in a forthcoming new evaluation system on state test scores. So if these test scores that certainly aren't reliable enough for judging the Mayor's or the Schools Chancellor's performance happen to plummet, well, too bad. Or if you're teaching a group of students that are already pretty well-equipped so that there's not much room for improvement, maybe you should have thought of that before accepting your job.

It's not so much that I'm 100% averse to state test scores being used as a component of teacher evaluation. As a small component of an equitable evaluation package, they're something to consider. But 40% is a big number over which teachers have variable amounts of influence. I'd hate to think that a teacher who's doing everything right who happens to see test scores fall one year would stand to lose his or her job. Particularly with the state tests on all levels (elementary, middle, and high schools) being in such flux at the moment, this strikes me as an imprudent and not necessarily fair move.

But the Mayor and the Chancellor could fix all that. They could offer to resign if test scores fall by the same amount for the same length of time that it would take to fire a teacher.

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