As reported by a number of horrified bloggers, the New York schools are experimenting with evaluating teachers based on their students' test scores. Bad, bad idea. Right? No control over the input; therefore not control over the output:
... teachers are being measured on how many students in their classes meet basic progress goals, how much student performance grows each year, and how that improvement compares with the performance of similar students with other teachers.
But put yer parent hat on for minute, and consider this scenario...
Your child's school district gives a "value-added" test like the NWEA MAPS test. These computerized tests are given in the fall and again in the spring and are designed to measure individual student growth on specific skills. RIT scores show just how many months/years of progress each individual makes between tests. Whether a student has a 1st grade reading level or a 10th grade reading level on entering the 5th grade classroom, the test will tell whether that student makes one year of skill growth - or not. At least that's the theory.
Now, my little boy Skunkie Jr is going into 4th grade and there are three possible 4th grade teachers that he might get. Might not I, as a parent, want to look at the track record of each teacher the Skunkster might get next year - as demonstrated by the percent of students that made or exceeded a year of growth in each of those teachers classes, over say, the past three years. The records indicate that an average of 75% of Mr. Chip's kids make a year of growth; 90% of Ms. Brodie's kids made a year's growth; but only 50% of Mr. Holland's get that year of progress. Might that not be a good thing to know - as a parent or an administrator or a staff development coordiantor or as a taxpayer?
It certainly wouldn't be the only factor I would consider in choosing a teacher (or school) for my child, but I'd rather like knowing it. I do want little Blue to be able to read and do his sums.
Norm-referenced standardized tests can't be used to measure the quality of teachers, of course. But that doesn't sound like what NYC schools are doing. I can't see how it would be a bad thing if my son making a year's worth of progress on a set of standards was seen as very, very important to his teacher.
I suspect there are plenty of really good teachers who would welcome some form of objective evaluation criteria for the work they do. Even without merit-based pay.
I'm not that horrified. Should I be? Why?