Monday, February 15, 2016

Change is Coming

Change is Coming

Just when it looked like little hope existed for overhauling state's use of test scores in evaluating teachers, a new wave of sanity has begun to take hold and influence the need for change. 

There is no question that states using test scores to evaluate teachers and principals are severely weakening the morale among teachers, parents and administrators. Worse is the use of "growth scores" which can count for as much as 50% of a teachers evaluation and measure student improvement by comparing scores against other classes in the state.

Last April, more than 200,000 New York State students in grades 3 - 8 opted out of state mandated English and Math tests. This was the biggest test boycott in the nation and only one of many boycotts in other states. It is time to admit that improper use of standardized test scores is a mistake and not admitting it is even a bigger mistake. New York State Regent Roger Tilles has called for changes in state law that place the emphasis on local measures of achievement for evaluating students and teachers. Even newly appointed Education Commissioner (NYS) MaryEllen Elia seems to recognize that something has to change.

The arguments made against the use of local measures of evaluation are as follows:1. Local measures can be manipulated2. Local measures are not uniform from one district.Both these arguments are absurd! First of all, the fear of manipulation of test scores is insulting to professional educators everywhere and unrealistic and the call for uniformity is educationally unsound. Are all students the same in every school district? Do all schools have the same resources? The last thing we should want is uniformity in testing. What we need to do is differentiate what we test and how we test students. A fundamental law of education is that all students learn at their own pace and not all students learn the same way. Testing students to evaluate teachers is wrong for students and unfair to teachers.Lets' hope this small awakening is the start of real change.