Friday, September 14, 2012

Standardized test scores are worst way to evaluate teachers

COMMENTARY BY ISABEL NUNEZ September 12, 2012 7:26PM 

As a university professor and educational researcher, I sometimes feel like I’m in that old ’50s horror movie, “The Blob.” Remember that one, where an invader from outer space grows with everything it eats, until it is a giant monster that threatens the entire town? Testing has done the same to education, harming students and schools — and is now poised to bring down the whole enterprise by taking over teacher and principal evaluation.
I am part of a group called CReATE, or Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education, which is trying to unite the voices of academics in opposition to these changes and to the corporate takeover of public education. We are trying to spread the message that what is happening in our schools today is not supported by the research.
Standardized testing has become monstrous, which brings us to the proposed changes to teacher evaluation: the latest and worst use of testing so far. The Chicago Public Schools are planning to implement evaluations based in part on student test scores this school year. Terror at this prospect prompted CReATE to gather 88 signers on an open letter criticizing the plan, which we hand-delivered to the mayor, schools CEO and the Board of Education.
This new evaluation plan alone makes a strike no “choice” at all.
First, testing is not the way we should measure student growth. Large-scale educational testing was born in the early 1900s at a particular time in history: the industrial revolution. Some might argue that this was appropriate when preparing for the early 20th century work force, but in today’s globalized, information-based economy, “student growth” must be more meaningfully defined and assessed.
Next, if we are going to make the mistake of reducing student growth to a line graph, we must at the very least abide by the principles of measurement. The discipline of testing, called psychometrics, is governed by rules, and the new system of evaluation breaks some of the most fundamental rules.

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