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There are dozens of things to evaluate a teacher on beyond the scores of standardized tests

Published: Sun, November 15, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.


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.


1leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

You say you want to be evaluated on the basis of questions like "Have I taught them the skills they will need to excell in our changing society and world?"

And yet, you decry the standardized tests, which, to my way of thinking, is one method of checking to see if a student can figure their way through a life-experience. Sure, any given test might not be completely reflective of a student's sociological or economic background. But so what? Life is going to be full of new and difficult experiences for your students. If you've truly succeeded with giving them the skills they need, (you know, like, gee, READING, basic MATH skills and the discipline to sit quietly for a while) they ought to be able to work their way through a standardized test. (which will be, in the great scheme of things, one of the easier experiences they'll encounter) .

These types of tests are not the entire answer - and you shouldn't be judged exclusively by how your students perform on them. But if your students can't handle these tests, there is definitely something wrong with your teaching, and you need to do more soul searching and less complaining and excuse making.

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2DrHoo(2 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Beauchene’s insights about teaching and accountability are extremely thoughtful and supported by sold research findings. As and educational researcher whose research is standardized testing and accountability, I can attest to the failure of standardized achievement test such as OAT to meet test-validity requirements. The tests do not measure the impact schools or educator have on the students. They measure the effects of the out-of-school lived experience of the child. Therefore, they are not at all a reasonable basis for judging educator performance.

Likewise, there are two types of accountability: pseudo and authentic. Authentic accountability holds professionals responsible for those things and only those things over which they have professional control and decision latitude. Performance based upon standardized tests or, worse, value added measurements is pseudo accountability, an unfair and non-credible assessment. Educators and the public deserve authentic accountability systems.

Randy L. Hoover, Ph. D.

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3leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Dr. Hoover,

While I agree that people should not be judged on things over which they have no control, I question this dichotomy you posit.

You assert that standardized achievement tests measure the out of school lived experience of the child, not the impact of the schools or educators. How so? How do you distinguish between the two types of experience, to be able to accurately determine which type is being tested?

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4rex(65 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Hopefully, teachers are going to be forced to live in the same world as the rest of us. I have been voting "no" on every school levy for years because of tenure and the lack of accountablity. Every other professional is forced to live and work with outside forces they cannot control. What makes teachers think they are so special. Once tenure is obolished and pay is preformance based, I will again support the schools.

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5Tigerlily(500 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe when we pay our teachers a salary that compensates the time we ask them to put into our children, we will get the quality teachers we want.

You get what you pay for. And if you pay your teachers 20k a year, you're getting a McDonalds teacher, not the upscale teacher you want in the classroom. where are the good ones? well, a few do it out of noble reasons, sure. but the majority of people who would make good teachers aren't going into it. they're getting degrees in other areas for professions that pay better, regardless of the summers off. and i don't blame them. as long as we treat education as babysitting, that's what we're going to get: babysitters.

when you raise the pay, you can attract the best. when you pay what a person can make at a convenient store for a lot less hassle, you get someone of that caliber.

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6leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey everyone - please, there's no need for the bad language. Frank, I appreciate that you work hard, but let's be straight about some things.

As a teacher, you are paid, not just for the hours during the school day, but for those extra hours you spend preparing, grading, and planning, etc. as well. While a teacher's salary may not be grand, it is, in fact, intended to cover the teacher's entire job; which is understood to include that time spent outside the classroom.

As for the home environment of your students - there will never be anything you can do about that. Since the beginning of time, teachers have always had to deal with this awful problem. However, this has not always been used by them as an excuse for why their students don't perform. There have always been students with bad environments; but there used to be more teachers whose expectations for their students, in class, were high and enforced.

You say the standardized tests are biased. Yes, they are: towards students who can read, and perform basic mathematics. I wish more teachers were forced to "teach to the test". Then perhaps, the students would come out of school with a little something, instead of the great big nothing they're leaving with, now.

I don't doubt there are many good teachers in our school systems. But they've bought into some pretty poor ideas about education - and, sorry to say, it really shows in the students being turned out of school.

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7JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Last I checked teachers weren't being involuntarily drafted into the field and salary specifics are pretty easy to find, the fact that compensation is lacking in the field shouldn't be a surprise to a new grad. I absolutely respect the work that's being done but those who lament their career should keep in mind that they alone were responsible for choosing it.

With regard to testing I would hope that most teachers are invested to the extent that the poster above describes but not foolhardy to the point where I’d assert that fact; rather than tests for the students implement tests for the teachers to weed out those that are less invested . If a district trimmed say 10% of its annual compensation budget it could focus on better compensating those remaining, deserving teachers and invest in eLearning initiatives to better engage and better prepare students for the future.

But none of this will be allowed to happen…

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

If a factory turns out cars that are substandard there will be no buyers and they will be forced to shut down . In the educational system tax dollars continue to be dumped into lost causes . The finished product which is the student evalutes the progress that the teachers do or don't make .

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9TB(1167 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

That factory owner that puts out the substandard cars? He has control over the quality of the materials he uses to assemble those cars. If I owned a factory and my supplier was sending metal that became brittle when heated or shaped, or glass with visible defects in it, I'd find another supplier, and definitely wouldn't use those defective materials.

The point the author of this piece made was that accountability isn't defined solely by one means of evaluation. Anyone who judges the worth of an employee, yet alone a person, by one facet of their profession is sadly narrowminded. Even Donald Trump takes many factors into account before pronouncing someone fired.

Refusing to take into account what a child is going through, (remembering that children are not mini-adults) is a very important piece to consider. Last year at a school in Warren, a student who was the innocent victim of a drive by shooting died the MORNING OF state testing. Students and staff were in tears, and the students had to take the tests the rest of the week, only after a last minute reprieve from the state. Students going through that kind of emotional trauma are simply not going to perform well on a test, let alone on many tasks coming throughout the day. Expecting children who are victims of abuse, neglect, drug abuse, etc. to perform at some arbitrary level is a terrible system...it reinforces the message that they are failures at life...something they well know because they live it every day.

"Every other professional is forced to live and work with outside forces they cannot control."
And let's look at how that's working for the economy and our job market...let's look at the damage the private sector has wrought in the stock market by placing all their eggs in this basket. While this quote is true, it doesn't make it right.

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10LocalYokel(12 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

There is a big difference between Youngstown city schools and Canfield school district. Do you really feel that teachers from those two districts salaries should be determined from the same test. Teachers go into their field knowing the pay scale, they want to make a difference, they want to teach children. If you don't see a growing lack of parental involvement, then you aren't looking hard enough, or in the right places. Not every child wants to learn, and not every parent places importance on education. Teachers do get not-rehired, and do get put on notice by principals, board of eds, and others. There is too much blame being thrown around, try some self-improvement for once.

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11Tigerlily(500 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

You get what you pay for.

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12leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Tigerlily, Do some research. The city of Youngstown spends more per pupil than Boardman or Canfield. If we got what we paid for, we'd have better educated students than either of those towns. But we don't.

And by the way, the average starting salary of a teacher in Ohio is $28,692, and the average salary is $50,314. And some of the more recent listings of teacher jobs available in Youngstown show a salary in excess of $36,000 to start. The public schools are not hiring full time teachers at $20,000.

While one may never get rich being a teacher, (or many other professions, for that matter) life is not about the money.

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13TB(1167 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

leaveusalone, do some research into the subgroups that Youngstown students represent versus what children in Boardman represent.

"If we got what we paid for, we'd have better educated students than either of those towns. But we don't."
I guess the alternative is to quit paying for all those students then. They're a waste I guess.

If you'd like examples of public school hiring in the mid to low 20s, examine the salaries in Bloomfield and Mesopotamia. You could also examine the salaries of teachers in Ohio's Appalachia region. I geuss if you'd done some research, you'd know that.

You say life is not about the money, but then you also say "If we got what we paid for, we'd have better educated students than either of those towns. But we don't."

Make up your mind.

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14leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

TB, the Bloomfield Mespo school district is listed as having two public schools, with a budget of $1,186,000 for the salaries of 25 teachers. This figure no doubt includes the cost of benefits, but that still allows for an average of $47,440 per teacher. That's a long way from $20,000.

My comments were directed at Tigerlily's hackneyed assertion that "you get what you pay for." No, you don't always get what you pay for. If you did, then, as we are a city paying more for education than some other places, Tigerlily's statement would dictate that we would see more educated students. There's nothing in this view to suggest that I value any group of students less than any other.

And there are no contradictions in my comments that would warrant your suggesting that I make up my mind. Life isn't about the money and you don't always get what you pay for. These are not mutually exclusive ideas.

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