An Oct. 28 editorial in The New York Times (“The New Haven Model”) supported a push in politics and possibly society in general to begin connecting student achievement on state standardized tests to teacher evaluations. The editorial claims that the model that is being implemented in New Haven should be considered by districts throughout our country and that student achievement should carry the majority of the weight when administrators evaluate the job performance of teachers. It seems the idea of creating a system in which teachers’ salary and other monetary compensation are also based on the scores that students earn on state tests is becoming increasingly popular.
Individuals who do not have the honor of creating and delivering daily lessons, performing lunch and bus duty each morning and afternoon, searching lockers for reported drugs or weapons, and walking through school hallways on a daily basis may not understand the emotions that editorials such as this evoke in educators. Allow me as a teacher to voice my personal concerns over “The New Haven Model”.
Yes, teachers must be held accountable. We as professionals must be able to perform at a level that impacts students and builds upon their growing knowledge. However, are test scores going to tell members of my administration that I am a top-notch teacher? I do not think so.
Have I led my students to critically think about important historical and current topics?
Have I taught them the skills that they will need to excel in our changing society and world?
Have I taught them that the choices they make in their lives will directly impact their futures and the futures of others?
These are some of the questions that I would like to be evaluated with.
I would like people to ask if I personally connected with my students so that they were safe and non-threatened while actively learning in my classroom.
I would like members of the community to witness the support that is given to the student whose father is taken to prison, shot, or killed because of criminal activity.
I would like someone to see the eighth-grader who has never completed a novel light up when he gives his first Book Talk in front of the class.
I am concerned with the message that is being sent to future teachers. Our salaries are already some of the lowest in regard to the years of higher education that we complete, the professional development that is required to be come re-licensed, and the work load that is placed on our shoulders. Will we be able to recruit quality educators if we put these types of evaluative policies in place? I fear that we will “scare” potential high quality individuals away from our schools — especially the low performing schools that desperately need high caliber teachers. However, that brings up another point: What makes a high caliber teacher? Is it their students’ test scores or their ability to build a life long love of learning within their students?
A final concern I have about connecting teacher evaluation and pay with student achievement on state tests: Where is the parental responsibility? My family and I spend hours each week completing homework, reading assigned books and preparing for standardized tests. Is it possible to attach student performance to the salaries and paychecks of the parents? How would society react to that modest proposal?
There are many other issues that could be discussed, including the validity of the tests, how the tests are graded, who creates the tests and the hours spent teaching test prep lessons instead of teaching content But, I think that I have provided enough food for thought. I must prepare for another day of shaping students, delivering lessons, breaking up fights, calling parents, confiscating weapons, reading books, and, oh yes ... giving practice tests.
X The writer is a teacher in the Warren City School District.