A highly rated New York City teacher who moves to a low-rated school will get an asterisk on her new ratings, writes teacher Arthur Goldstein in an open letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Doesn’t that indicate that the test scores are determined more by students themselves as opposed to teachers?” he asks.
Goldstein teaches English as a Second Language to immigrant students who tend to do badly on standardized tests. It would be “irresponsible of me to neglect . . . basic conversation and survival skills,” yet the test focuses on academic English.
Teaching ESL or special education is a high-risk specialty, Goldstein argues.
Attaching high stakes to test scores places undue pressure on high-needs kids to pass tests for which they are unsuited. For years I’ve been hearing about differentiation in instruction. I fail to see how this approach can be effectively utilized when there is no differentiation whatsoever in assessment. It’s as though we’re determined to punish both the highest needs children and their teachers.
Teacher morale has “taken a nose dive” because of high-stakes evaluations, he writes.
Accountability can backfire, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week.
Rating teachers by their students’ performance poses the same risk, argues Tucker. Instead of rewarding good teachers, it may reward teachers with good students and penalize those who teach the most challenging students.
He imagines a top teacher who leaves her suburban school for a high-poverty school. The work is much harder. “Your students’ scores on the state tests may not go up much, but you know what you have done for a number of these kids has spelled the difference between a chance for a future and none at all,” Tucker writes. But the teacher earns a very low rating and other experienced teachers decide that teaching the neediest kids is too much of a risk.
Value-added measures are supposed to compare students’ past performance, so teachers aren’t penalized for teaching low-performing kids. But it’s not clear that the measures are reliable — especially for the many teachers who don’t teach subjects that are tested.