In The Test Generation, Dana Goldstein looks at a Colorado Springs district that tests all students in all subjects — including music, art and P.E. — multiple times during the year. Their progress will determine whether their teachers earn a lot more or a lot less. First graders are supposed to evaluate Picasso’s use of colors and shapes to show emotion in “Weeping Woman, ” a cubist portrait; later, they’re told to write a paragraph on a Matisse painting. (The test will be made easier next year.)
In order to assess (Sabina) Trombetta, the district will require her Chamberlin Elementary School first-graders to sit for seven pencil-and-paper tests in art this school year. To prepare them for those exams, Trombetta lectures her students on art elements such as color, line, and shape — bullet points on Colorado’s new fine-art curriculum standards.
If a teache in Harrison District 2 “grows” students’ test scores over the course of the year, she could earn up to $90,000 — more than double the average for a Colorado teacher, Goldstein writes. ” But if her students score poorly two years in a row, her salary could drop by as much as $20,000, and she could eventually lose tenure.”
In addition to all the testing, Harrison has adopted “intense professional-development efforts of the sort promoted by education experts from across the political spectrum.”
Harrison teachers are told to expect up to 16 on-the-spot classroom observations per semester from administrators and instructional consultants; after these visits, teachers receive feedback on everything from classroom layout to lesson plans to whether they are spending too much or too little time explaining assignments to students before letting them try a hands-on activity.
Soon Colorado will require all schools to evaluate teachers’ effect on students’ academic growth in all subjects.