you are what you (and your students) score

I’ve been following this story for several months now.  Here’s the synopsis:  students take tests.  Teachers are judged based on those test scores.  A judge in New York City has now ruled that it is ok for teacher’s names and scores to be released to the public.

At first glance, it may not seem like a big deal.  Truth be told, I am not necessarily opposed to the court’s ruling.  If my test scores from last year were released, you would see the following:

Erin Russ – 89%, 94%, and 100% proficient in the three state-tested courses that I taught.

Not too shabby, right?  What you don’t see is that all of my classes last year were at the Honors and Seminar level, which means those percentages that were less than 100% had a negative impact on me and my school.  (See here for a summary of EVAAS and its impact on school systems and educators.)

So my good scores are actually not as good as they seem.  The opposite is also true.  A teacher in a “regular” class whose proficiency score is, for example, 45%, looks bad.  However, if EVAAS predicted that those students were only predicted to be 14% proficient, then I’d say that represents significant growth for those students and the teacher.  (That 14% to 45% growth was a class I had my first year, by the way.)

The problem with the ruling in New York City is that there seems to be no provision for actually explaining the rating system to the public.  In fact, the rating system itself has been found to be full of statistical flaws, as noted in an earlier NY Times article.

I’m also wondering if there will be a provision to publish other factors that affect student achievement.  For example, four of my students have been arrested during the past nine week grading period.  I wonder how well they’ve been preparing for their state-administrered multiple choice exam?  And what about the parent who kicked her daughter out of the house midway through the second quarter?  Will her performance as a parent also be published next to her daughter’s test score?

While all of these criticisms seem obvious, I am still left to wonder what the solution is.  As a society, we have promised to educate ALL of our citizens (and some visitors, too).   Japan may outscore us in most PISA categories, but when was the last time a teacher in a Japanese classroom had to teach his or her content in a language other than their native tongue?  The challenges facing our school systems are overwhelming and numerous.  Why attack those who are doing our best to improve it from within?

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