Monday, December 27, 2010

When Is This Horse Going To Die?

...because, honestly? Aren't we all sick of beating it?

But before we get started here...Yes, I know I've been gone fo-eva, I know I should probably explain myself and I know I owe many of you an apology. All of this is coming, friends, but Mrs. Mimi has to deal with this pesky piece-of-shit fly first.

What is so major that it snapped me out of my funk? Got me to dust off the old soap box? Shine up the fabulous boots for a little butt kicking?

Using student standardized test scores to evaluate, judge, compensate and, yes, sometimes publicly humiliate teachers, that's what.

I mean, what the deuce, Powers That Be? Why won't you let this one go?

A Super Colleague sent me a link to a piece in the NY Times this morning. After reading just the first few opening sentences, I could feel my old blog finger twitching. (For those of you who are non-bloggers, that's similar to a trigger finger, but with a lot less ammo and a lot more snarky.)

Here's the link. Take a moment. Soak in the ridiculous. I'll still be here fuming when you finish.

Why do city officials insist on using standardized test scores for EVERYTHING?! Is it because reducing something SO COMPLEX such as teacher effectiveness to a bunch of numbers feels easier, faster, neater? More science-y and fitting with your power ties, expensive lunches and big charts with graphs?

I guess from where city officials are standing (hint: it's not in a school), abusing standardized test data is the new rage in excessive back patting.

Why shouldn't we use said data to evaluate their job performance and determine their pay? Oh, because they can't be held directly responsible for something that depends on such a wide variety of factors?

Well then, NEITHER SHOULD TEACHERS.

I feel like it goes without saying, but I will say it again because that is the way of my people. The score a student receives on a test is not just a measure of his teacher's ability to teach. It is also a reflection of his parents, his entire school, the neighborhood he lives in, if he ate a decent breakfast and if he speaks proficient English. It's complicated, can we just agree on that?

And then did you read the part about how really these scores might
say something about the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent but really tell us next to nothing about the remaining 80 percent of teachers. Do I even need to throw in the reality that many teachers don't even test a subject or grade level that is tested?!

May I take a moment to make it very clear that my last statement was in no way an invitation to create another battery of tests. I know, I got the Powers That Be all worked up for a second there. Perhaps they need a cold, number free shower or something.

Let's just boil it down to this.

Stop saying that you respect teachers, that you think we have a difficult job, that you think we are so important to the future and then simultaneously reduce our jobs to a series of numbers and scores that are largely irrelevant and, in many ways, out of our control. Stop pointing fingers, trying to publicly humiliate us and pin the blame for failing schools on us alone and then wonder why the best and brightest don't jump at the chance to have a career in teaching.

Just stop.

The horse is dead. Put down your stick and walk away.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


8 comments:

Z said...

I've actually asked this question, "Why shouldn't we use said data to evaluate their job performance and determine their pay?" out loud, amongst a room full of teachers and my administration. I didn't get a response but rather a stern look. Pft! The question makes people uneasy because they know it's ridiculous!

Teresa said...

BRAVO!!!! I agree wholeheartedly!

In addition to all of the reasons you stated, I have to add that standardized test scores don't tell whether or not a child can APPLY the knowledge they're being tested on. While a given student may or may not be able to guess the correct answer to a particular question, he or she is given no opportunity to demonstrate that he or she can apply what that question is asking!

Prime example: the pre and post tests I give my kids in science are pulled directly from the "inquiry questions" that the state attaches to each standard. They're essentially essay questions that require the kids to think about what they've learned and apply it to a situation. It's all well and good that they can rattle off the types of matter and give examples of each, but if they can't explain how temperature affects each one with a relevant real-life example, I haven't taught them anything! Standardized tests don't ask those questions. The future job market our kids will have to face will as those questions, and require more critical thinking about hypothetical problems than a standardized test will ever be able to measure. And that is even more important than the fact that these tests shouldn't be how teachers are evaluated. We aren't teaching students to rattle off facts or pick the most logical answer--last I checked, we're helping our students learn to THINK so that they can be the next problem solvers of our world.

Z said...

I once asked this very question, "Why shouldn't we use said data to evaluate their job performance and determine their pay?" out loud in a room full of teachers and my administration. I didn't get an answer but instead a stern look. Pft! The answer makes people uneasy because they know the whole thing is ridiculous!

institutrice said...

Klein claims this is the fairest way possible. How can it be fair if it's not accurate?

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

The LA Times went and drove a teacher to suicide with their published teacher ratings. The media is not our biggest fan, educators. Trust no one.

Stu said...

First...welcome back, Mrs. Mimi...you have been missed :) New iPad eh? Whoo hoo!!

Second...it's all business. They (the proverbial powers) have no clue about teaching and learning but they do know that there are billions to be made in the "education industry." Testing companies have a vested interest in selling their product. So...since they are sleeping with politicians anyway, it's easy to get them to say, "Numbers are everything."

Check out this article about money and education.

http://ksdcitizens.org/2010/12/22/waiting-for-superfraud/

Charters, pay for test scores...it's all the money.

And, while we're at it...you all realize don't you that your education degree...and masters degrees especially, are worthless, right? Secretary Duncan only has a bachelors degree in Sociology...so, in order for him to speak with authority about education he has to make it seem like our education/training as teachers is worthless.

This is like a bad dream where the "powers that be" are dead set on trying to destroy public education!

Rebecca said...

It's funny, I glanced at that NYT article in a store yesterday and thought to myself, "Mmmm. Mrs. Mimi is gonna have something to say about that!" Sorry they're still beating the horse, glad to have you back. ;)

Teachinfourth said...

Ugh! I felt a bit of the monster arise in me as I read this post...I can't agree with you more on this one!

It's crazy that so often students get tested to see how much they know something, and the teachers judged on this information. If I were allowed to pick and choose whatever students I wanted in my class, I wouldn't mind this is much... but when you give me students that may or may not be getting help at home, are motivated, or that even want to try, well you know what I'm trying to say.

I feel we test students far too much today.



Sorry, this sort of thing just gets my dander up up.

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