Saturday, 12 January 2013

Measuring Teacher Quality

I recently read this article about the views of a data expert on the use of student test scores to determine teacher effectiveness. I found myself nodding in agreement at so much of it that I didn't think I could adequately share the sentiments via a tweet!

Data King Nate Silver Isn't Sold on Evaluating Teachers With Test Scores | Education on GOOD

    Quotes in blue [my bits in black]:
    "There are certainly cases where applying objective measures badly is worse than not applying them at all, and education may well be one of those.
    • Just because the concept or big idea is worthy, doesn't mean we should accept poor application that does damage, rather than good - Yes, it is worthwhile to raise the quality of teachers, to identify the 'high-quality' teachers that can spread their good practice and lead, as well as to identify teachers that need development, but if the measures taken to do this are damaging to teacher practice and student learning, then a better pathway needs to be found... 
    one of my projects involved visiting public school classrooms... talking to teachers, and their view was very much that teaching-to-the-test was constraining them in some unhelpful ways."
    • Pursuing such a narrow, prescribed pathway to 'effectiveness' is highly-limiting, dumbs down teachers and makes them easily-replaceable [anyone can follow a narrow formula and do what they are told... ].
    it's a "topic that requires a book- or thesis-length treatment to really evaluate properly,"
    • But that would be too complex and difficult to 'sell' to the public - who wants to read a book or a thesis when you can get all the information you need from a graph on the front page of the newspaper?!?
    Silver's hesitation about using test scores to evaluate teachers isn't exactly a surprise given that he's driven by data and facts, and plenty of other individuals and organizations have laid out the case against the practice pretty thoroughly.
    The NRC noted that research does not support the practice and while they believed tests can be used to inform, "a single test should not be relied on as the sole indicator of program effectiveness."
    • Too simple. Teaching is a latent variable - there are a myriad of identifiable traits [think planning documents, assessment strategies, use of space, quality of interactions, level of student engagement, questioning skills, capacity to differentiate learning experiences, level of professionalism, capacity for self-reflection, commitment to Professional Learning, etc, etc... ] that could be used to help inform a measurement of teacher effectiveness, but to narrow it down to only one seems very silly... 
    holding teacher accountable for growth in the test scores (called value-added) of their students is more harmful than helpful to children's educations.
    • ... because of the affect this will have on the way the teacher teaches - they are near forced to focus all of their time, creativity and teaching energies upon what will be tested [what they are accountable for] - everything else that contributes to a quality education falls by the wayside... 
    Placing serious consequences for teachers on the results of their students’ tests creates rational incentives for teachers and schools to narrow the curriculum to tested subjects, and to tested areas within those subjects.
    lose instruction in history, the sciences, the arts, music, and physical education, and teachers focus less on development of children’s non-cognitive behaviors—cooperative activities, character, social skills
    despite the abundance of smart people speaking out against the practice, education policy makers continue their push for including test scores in teacher evaluations.
    • So how do people 'push back' against narrow, simplistic and damaging policy viewpoints..?

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