I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Teachers Teach the Test When the Test Tests Teachers

This morning, the Star-Ledger gave me a gift: the perfect reformy op-ed. I say "perfect" because this piece brings together pretty much every ill-informed and poorly conceived argument for using standardized tests as part of a teacher's evaluation into one place. It's like a Rosetta Stone of reforminess.

The author, Marcus Winters, is a think-tanky type, but he has some serious credentials. That says to me that this is the best their side can do.

If so, they've got problems.

I'll pick apart the entire thing over the next few days. For now, let's leave it at this:
A rich evaluation system would assess a teacher’s performance using both student test scores and observations of classroom performance.
Oh, my reformy friend. Let's get this straight, once and for all:

You can pretend that the bubble test is "only part of the evaluation," but that's a delusion. It is all of the decision. When you attach phony precision to the test, it doesn't matter what kind of evaluations of teacher practice you do; the test becomes the deciding factor.

And when that happens, there is a consequence as inevitable as day following night: teachers will teach to the test.

Think about it: if you're a teacher, how could you not want to place importance on standardized tests when you know it will be the deciding factor in your evaluation? Why would you spend time teaching our children civics and history and science and all sorts of enrichment areas when you'll be judged solely on math and reading? Why would you want your kids to go to music and art and PE when you could spend those minutes drilling test prep questions?

It's your job on the line; it's your family's future. Are you really going to take a risk that your kids will do just fine on the test? I didn't think so.

What Marcus Winters wants is a world where teachers teach children that the most important thing in the world is to fill in the correct bubble when an authority figure tells you to. Lord help us if he gets his way.

Teachers Teach the Test When the Test Tests Teachers

Stand by: much more to come...

No comments: