Hiring, retaining and rewarding good teachers is essential to improving education, writes Eduflack. But are the tests we have good enough to use to evaluate teacher effectiveness?
In an era where most of our student assessments are focused on measuring reading and math proficiency in grades three through eight, do we really have a full quantitative picture to separate the good teachers from the bad?
What about the notion of the teacher team? If I am a middle school student, my performance on the state reading exam is impacted by more than just what is happening in my ELA class. Hopefully, my social studies teacher is introducing new vocabulary words and forcing me to apply critical thinking and comprehension skills to what I am reading. My first or second year of a foreign language is getting me to reflect more closely on sentence structure and the roots and meanings of key words or word parts. Even my math and science classes are contributing to my overall literacy skills. So if I gain on the state reading exam, is that just a win for my reading teacher (as the current proposals would call for) or is that a win for the entire faculty?. . . Are all gains equal? If I am a math teacher in an upper-class suburban public school, and my students post five point gains on the state assessment, taking them from 92 percent to 97 percent, is that equal to a math teacher in a failing urban middle school who boosts student math performance from 45 percent to 50 percent?
Eduflack worries about all the intangibles that help teachers work effectively — or undercut their efforts. A teacher who fails to raise test scores may be held back by an incompetent principal or ineffective colleagues. (I used to think my junior high school looked much better than it should have because we had great parents offsetting some third-rate teachers and a fourth-rate principal.)