“We will be judging your success and talent as a teacher based on your students’ test scores and the amount of growth your students show over the course of the year. Whether or not you have a job will depend on your test scores.” Teachers hear this and gasp, frantically thinking about the year ahead.
The N.C. General Assembly, pushed by the federal Race to the Top initiative, wants teachers evaluated on the basis of student performance with student performace measured by standardized tests.
On the surface, it may seem like a legitimate way to evaluate educators. Teachers do need to be evaluated, and what better way to do this than see how their students perform? But in reality, so much more goes on in the classroom than can be measured in an hour of multiple choice bubbling.
Remember that amazing sixth grade class that taught you everything about ancient Greece and Rome? You came into class decked out in a homemade, safety-pinned, bed sheet and discovered the fantastical world of city-states and Homer. Although this experience did not teach you sentence structure or the quadratic formula, it fostered your creativity and taught you to think differently about the world around you.
Another significant flaw can be found in this system of assessing teachers. Growth. My mother is a teacher for the academically gifted. The students in her classroom consistently score in the 99th percentile on their end of year tests. How is she supposed to get her students to show growth when they are scoring in the highest percentile?
Why can we treat teachers equally when we offer an array of different classes for the variety of students? Teachers who are teaching the upper-level thinkers should be evaluated in a different way than those teaching the students who have to be forced to go to class. Scores on end-of-year exams come from the amount of effort a student puts into school and the test itself, not the amount of effort a teacher puts into educating his or her class.
A student is more than just a number. A teacher is more than just a number. Life cannot be summarized by linear progression. From year to year, there might be retrogression and there might be downfalls, but success is individualized and not necessarily measurable. Whether or not teachers can actually be assessed at the end of the year is for to debate. To truly evaluate a teacher, someone needs to enter the classroom and observe rather than crunch the numbers produced on test day. Right now a standardized test is not an accurate cross-section of the effort placed into one year. Thus, legislators and education officials needs to rethink how they are operating.
by Anna Yarbrough