Teachers should NOT be judged solely by test scores

If there's a job in the world that I hold the highest respect for, is that of the Teachers (this profession deserves an upper case T). Teaching is very hard, it requires much patience and love as well as a lot of responsibility --for those reasons alone, teachers deserve everyone's respect.

A good teacher has the ability to positively affect our children--to change their lives, really. They also have the ability to scar them, but for now let's focus on the good ones. I was lucky enough to have a couple of incredible Teachers growing up, I still remember them. In fact, my first grade Teacher,  Teresa Floranes, is my Facebook friend now.

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When you've seen a great Teacher in action, you raise your standards and immediately start measuring every other Teacher to the one you liked so much, the one that was able to teach you something "that stuck"-- that's the power of an amazing teacher.

This weekend I was reading in the paper about the Teacher's grading process in this country and I was in awe to discover that a high percentage of a Teacher's rating depends on how much progress his or her students make on state tests in a year's time (known as the value-added score).

I think that this is kind of crazy. If any of my math teachers would've had been measured against my abysmal skills with numbers, I would've had major guilt issues. I am terrible at math and this had little to do with the my Teachers, who all tried very hard to help me. These teachers in fact, help full classrooms of kids and they do as much as they possibly can to meet each of their needs, they are not supposed to be super-heroes.

In 2010 State Officials and the Teachers' unions agreed to let students' test scores count for 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation, but last year they decided that 20 percent wasn't enough so they pushed a measure that allowed student test scores to count for 40 percent. The value-added analysis estimates a Teacher's contribution to student learning by tracking students' progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is compared with his or her own in past years so this approach is clearly affected by external influences (beyond a Teacher's reach) such as poverty, parenting, prior learning, cultural differences, etc.

It's not just the low scorers who are offended. Maribeth Whitehouse, a special education teacher in the Bronx told the New York Times, "I am a 99th percentile. A number of us are in touch with each other, united by nothing more than our profession and professional disdain for this nonsense." 

This sounds absolutely insane. If these Teacher's are actually focusing on their students needs and finding better methods to teach their students, they shouldn't be put under this kind of pressure. What does that say about the quality of the education our kids are getting? Kids scores on some random standardized test is NOT how teachers should be judged. On top of this ridiculous pressure to raise scores, results are often made public, so there's a direct attempt to ruin certain Teacher's reputation. It's one thing  to release overall school ratings to the public, but individual Teacher ratings should be private.

But many Education Officials say that value-added analysis it's the most objective measure available, and districts around the country are adopting it, largely because of federal incentives.

I believe that as parents we need to stand by the Teacher's side on this battle. My daughter is part of the public education system and I have a lot of respect for her Teachers and the school's Principal. These people certainly don't do this job for the money, they love what they do and they're helping us shape our children. If the student's test scores are low it isn't good for anybody, but this by no means should be the measure in which teacher's qualifications are judged.

There's got to be a better way, so let's ask the State to find a better method for our Teacher's -- and also one that conduct such evaluations privately, for the purpose of helping Teachers improve -- in the same way they are helping our kids become better people.

 Do you think Teacher's should be judged solely by their student's test scores?

Image via WBUR/flickr

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