I’m trying to understand why the editors at The Buffalo News are so passionate about the details of teacher evaluation systems as exclaimed in a recent editorial to “Veto bill on testing.”
I think that we all agree that teachers need to be evaluated, and struggling teachers need to improve or find another profession. The question is whether mandated “coupling” of teacher evaluation with student scores on New York State tests is good practice. The new law approved by the New York State legislature has eliminated this mandated coupling. Here are a few reasons why this is a good law:
• Coupling has exacerbated bad practice with many elementary schools focusing almost exclusively on math and English Language Arts (ELA) as these are the only consequential test scores for teachers.
• Coupling has led to an absurd amount of time spent on test prep in classrooms.
• Teachers and administrators have been burned out by an overemphasis on test scores.
• Parents in New York State have voted with their feet on coupling by opting out of state tests, not wanting their children to be part of this high-stakes drama for teachers and schools.
• Test scores inevitably measure more than teacher effects, even when statistical methods are used to control for other factors (such as home and school resources, student characteristics, and the impact of other teachers and parents).
Across the world, most countries do not use achievement test scores as a primary means of evaluating teachers. Instead, teacher observations by administrators, formal and informal, are considered key evidence of good teacher practice and student learning.
Educational leaders use their expertise (including analysis of test scores and other outcome measures as appropriate) to judge teacher quality and work to improve teaching practice. This law helps New York State recover from a failed experiment, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should sign it.
Julie Jacobs Henry