Monday, November 16, 2015

My "Real Discussion" on Test-Based Teacher Evaluations

At the November Delegate meeting, President Mulgrew noted that there needs to be a "real discussion" on teacher evaluations.  He asked if teachers really want to return to evaluations based solely upon the observation of principals.  Under the new system, fewer teachers receive the near equivalent of the old U, an ineffective rating.

The President noted that no standardized test should be used solely to evaluate teachers.  The tests must have validity in informing instruction and aiding individual students.  He also noted that student learning is not just a test.

There are some positives.  Tests no longer seem to be touted as the key to civil rights equality for minorities.  That is a blessing.  If my bottom line was data, I might say the new system, with fewer failing teachers, is an improvement.  If I had a supervisor with a personal vendetta against me, I would probably wish 100% of my evaluations were based upon standardized assessments.

Having neither, I can safely say I abhor test-based evaluations of teachers.  I do not wish to teach to standardized tests.  For part of my career, these tests have watered down the curriculum.  The higher the stakes of these tests, the more teachers are forced to spend good class time in nearly meaningless prep.  In the case of the Common Core, the tests target a generation of other people's children for failure.  I would not wish to teach to these tests either.

Standardized tests have nothing to do with my reasons for entering the profession of teaching.  They have nothing to do with making learning interesting to students.  They kill creativity.  They push current issues aside.  They rank people according to questions that will, ultimately, have little relevance for the real world.

If teaching remains focused on testing, teachers are nothing more than at-will employees of Stanley Kaplan.  All that's needed to fire more teachers are harder, trickier or less valid tests.  There is no objectivity in testing, only a false veneer.  Testing could turn teaching into a profession one hardly recognizes anymore.  How many intelligent and independently-minded individuals will want to teach to someone else's idea of a perfect test?

This is my "real discussion."  You are free to agree or disagree.  There's no one answer, as on a standardized test; but, remember, there's a lot riding on the answer.  We are redefining a profession.  We are creating a new breed of teacher.

And, unfortunately, we may be fostering far fewer creative children.
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