Evaluate Teachers based on Standardized Test Scores? Can an “education reformer” please answer the following question?

As reported in today’s CTMirror, it wasn’t even two hours after Governor Malloy signed the “education reform” bill into law before the three groups representing the school superintendents, principals and school boards went back on their word, claiming that the new law gave them the right to implement policies that student’s standardized test scores can account for 50 percent of a teachers evaluation rather than the 22.5 percent that was listed in the draft bill and agreed to by all of the parties last January.

I suppose we have to admit that it is really our fault for even thinking these people were committed to a collegial process to improve Connecticut’s urban schools.

But more importantly – as to the substance of the issue of linking standardized test scores to the annual evaluation of teachers…

Let me ask the question one more time.

And hopefully, this time there will be a “reformer” out there who will explain how standardized test scores are supposed to be interpreted and used as part of the teacher evaluation process?

In Meriden, where test scores are low due to poverty and language  barriers, is a 5 percent improvement in the 4th grade master test in reading the same, equal to or less than a 1% improvement in Avon where test scores start out three times higher. (Putting aside the fact that the 1 percent, and maybe even the 5 percent, isn’t statistically significant enough to tell us that any movement has actually taken place).

So anyway, is the 5 percent better than the 1 percent?

Okay, let’s change the framework and talk about test results from the same town.

Let’s imagine we have two 4th grade classes.  One is taught by Ms. K and the other by Mrs. R.

This year, “Ms. K” has a class of 25 students (6 of whom aren’t fluent in English and 2 have special education needs.) and “Mrs. R” has a class of 22 students (all of whom speak English but 4 of them have special education needs.)

Once again, the test results come in.

Now we can’t rate the teacher’s skill based on this year’s 4th grade class compared to last year’s 4th grade since last year’s class was a completely different set of students.

And we can’t compare the teacher’s skill based on Miss Ks 4th grade class compared to how the class did a year ago when they took the 3rd grade test because, as we know, students don’t move forward as a block from class to class.  Most schools change the mix each year as the students go through the system.

And we can’t compare Ms. K’s class to Mrs. R’s class because the makeup of the classes is so different. (I.e. the number of English language learners, the number of special education students).

So obviously a 2 percent change in Ms. K’s class with her six non-English-speaking students is different from a 2 percent change in Mrs. R’s class with all English speaking students.

But yet the Governor, the Governor’s Chief Advisor, the Commissioner of Education, the “education reformers” and some media columnists have all said that teachers will finally be held accountable.

For example, the Courant’s Rick Green wrote today that “Finally, we may be able to clearly and fairly assess good teachers….a significant new evaluation program emerged that could become the legislation’s biggest achievement, if it works. Teachers must demonstrate they are effective. Regular evaluations will be based, in part, on whether students are learning.”

Actually, the bill doesn’t say that evaluations will be based on whether students are learning,it says it will be based on the results of standardized test scores.

Okay, so tell us — the way reformers talk about it — there must be a simple answer.  How do the results from the standardized test scores provide information that allows us to hold the teacher accountable?

See CTMirror Story here:  http://ctmirror.com/story/16357/education-celebration-ends-abruptly-over-questions-role-standardized-tests-teacher-grade

  • Bmorri6409

    The so-called reformers also miss another point surrounding the issue of standardized test scores; they use them to measure school success. Yet, every Research Methodologies STUDENT knows that a single measure across cohorts is unreliable, hence, invalid.  This is Research Methodology 101!  One CANNOT measure improvement with the use of only one test.  By not giving the test TO THE SAME COHORT multiple times, no improvement can possibly be shown.  There are far too many variables, including the basic truth that one CAPT test cannot measure student or school improvement because the student only takes the test once. It is manifestly impossible for any student or school to show growth or improvement!

    Yet the reformers, seemingly educated in Research Methodology, ignore this law of basic research!  They measure school improvement by contrasting Class A’s performance last year with Class B’s performance this year!  There is no correlation between the classes; even should Class B’s performance be superior to class A’s performance, there is no evidence that Class B actually improved in either knowledge or performance.

    In other words, the reformers do not know what they are doing or talking about when they talk about “failing schools”! There has been NO RELIABLE or VALID measure of school improvement!  We have no idea that there is a real crisis, let alone that schools are failing!

    Bill Morrison

  • Linda174

    Check it out…one of the indicators is attendance….so our evaluation, in part, is based upon if they come to school or not…what are the parents responsible for?

     Teachers be evaluated as follows:

    45 percent on student learning indicators (things like attendance, graduation rates and standardized tests); 5 percent on how the school performs as a whole or a student feedback survey; 40 percent on teachers’ observations and practices; 10 percent on peer and parent feedback surveys.

    • Magister

      So less than half is based on our actual skill at professionally interacting with students. That’s just great. Since it is not simple to mathematically quantify, it is less important.

      I teach a subject which is not yet attached to any high stakes, standardized tests (unless you count AP). Do I have the creation of more tests to look forward too, or do all of my students have to take AP and then get high scores now?

      • Linda174

        This is what happened in Tennesee…it is my understanding Michelle Rhee’s exhusband is their commissioner. They got the RTTT $$ and were scrambling to find a way to tie test scores to all teachers, so teachers who were not directly linked to a subject area presently being tested could choose a subtest. Basically, they would find out which area their school was strongest in and request their evaluation be tied to those results. So they didn’t teach the subject nor did they have the students and these results were a part of their evaluation.

        I will look for the NY Times article and post the link if I find it, but I read this a while ago. Unbelievable!

        • Linda174

          Here is the link…have you ever heard of anything more absurd…who would stay in teaching or enter the profession with all this complete nonsense.


        • anniemil

           I had read that article before, but couldn’t remember where. It is totally bizarre! What other profession would tolerate this? I taught multiple grades of special ed. How would they evaluate that? Spin the wheel? My daughter teaches integrated reg ed, special ed preschool? What will be the guide for that evaluation? Develop a standardized test? They can’t even sit let alone fill in bubbles. No wonder she’s so done with this career. And if I do say so myself, she’s damn good at it. The kids’ loss.

        • Linda174

          It is only a matter of time, but this won’t be a career anymore…only a masochist would pursue teaching in a public school under these conditions…those who choose to stay will be reduced to at-will employees.

          Many are now planning their escape routes.

        • jonpelto

          We’re the US of A – we don’t need no stinkin teachers! They don’t call us the greatest nation on earth for nothin!

          Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

        • anniemil

          Totally agree. And I encouraged her to add a major in a marketable skill in addition to her dual art history and Italian majors! Talk about guilt here. The testing is also the reason why I’m encouraging my son and d-i-l to start planning now to send our 2 month old granddaughter to maybe religious private school. Dogma/testing? Dogma definitely the lesser of 2 evils.

        • Linda174

          Yes, my two are done…electrical engineering with a job and product design major at Parsons. If I had little ones, I would NEVER place them in public schools with this overbearing weight on testing, testing, testing.

          I am also not fond of the overly interpreted state wide implementation of the PJ lawsuit and ALL sped. in all mainstream classes. We have lost all specialized services..not sure why anyone needs to be sped. anymore. Regular Ed has a wide range of functioning levels (span of 3-5 years) in one class (all subjects). We should all be teaching the same concepts at the same time with the same assessments, but don’t forget to individualize and differentiate. That is not even humanly possible….it is an oxymoron. All can enter AP…no criteria…we are watering down the curriculum and narrowing the focus so that we cover what will be on the high stakes test only.

          Who would want that for their children? Private school, home school, or move.

          I do not recommend anyone pursue education or teaching as a career.

        • 4thGradeTeacherGuy

          Thanks for sharing that link Linda.   It looks like Connecticut is headed down a similar path.  

  • 4thGradeTeacherGuy

    As a teacher I’d be happy to be evaluated on a standardized testing system that exists.  Only it doesn’t exist and we just passed legislation that basically enforces a system that doesn’t exist and by all accounts isn’t even being close to created.  There is no model out there to copy and implement.  Thanks for keeping people out their informed about this Jonathan!

  • anniemil

    According to the preview, buffoon Dannel is going to be on The Ed Show tonight, MSNBC 8-9PM. Or at least Ed’s covering the CT Ed reform situation.

    • Linda174

      Just wait….he will take credit for getting reform right..how it involved the teachers and how he protected us…how he is building up schools..his reform is different…he will be slinging the BS all over the place.

      He will fail to mention the original bill and disparaging comment against all teachers.

      He is a legend in his own mind.

  • Follow the Money

    The CMT program is going to be phased out by 2014 in favor of computerized tests that are based on the Common Core State Standards, adopted by Connecticut. That means all the CMT standards are out, right? Wrong! Teachers must still teach the Connecticut standards while trying to learn, and attempting to phase in, the new CCSS. Now, having seen and worked with these standards, this ain’t gonna be easy. They are much more complex than the idiotic Connecticut state standards, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. There are insufficient materials out there, and publishers are scrambling to convince districts that, yes, their materials are aligned with the CCSS, and they are not.

    So here’s my prediction: since districts have a year and a half, roughly, to get their staff to even understand the CCSS, develop aligned curriculum, secure materials for, and create, lessons and assessments, while simultaneously teaching under the Connecticut standards, by the time the new testing comes along in the lower grades (you know, K-2, where there IS no testing at present?) we will ALL be low performing districts. If they base our evaluation on this, the current lie being pushed by the superintendents and others, we are doomed. They are setting us, and the kids, up to fail.

    Might as well make every school part of the Commisioner’s Pryor-ity Network.

    • Linda174

      Yes, that is correct and the primary author of the CCSS (not a teacher) just took the top job at the College Board and he boasts about working with teachers. What teachers? They all have one quality in common…the ability to lie constantly.

      Our heads will be spinning….tired demoralized teachers will not have time to fight….kind of like the animals in Animal Farm.


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  • Ashbaugh1

    Just as I predicted when I retired from 10 years of public high school teaching in CT 4 years ago — things would continue to spiral downward…..all that is truly needed to improve is a return to the 60s tracking model where students took the course best suited for them and standardized testing was just a blip on the radar.  Ensure that college prep is just that and require all in that track to take the tough courses and, most importantly, standardize nationally what the core courses must include.  Ever wonder why the foreign countries outdo us in math and science??  Their students who plan to go to college take far more of these courses than do our students.  Also, they include only their college prep students in the testing in the first place, as we USED TO do!!  As for standardization of curricula, I do not mean everyone has to teach exactly the same content, but I do mean there needs to be an agreement at the national level as to what core topics MUST include, and then the flexibility can be in the way it is taught and whatever extra topics the teacher has time to cover in addition to the required ones.  With so many people moving around every year it is very hard for American students to get a solid grounding in many of the core courses because every district and sometimes even schools with in it cover different material, and continuity suffers.  Mostly teachers need to be left alone to teach the way best suits them and stop all the nonsense with being required to use the same methods as other teachers just because it looks good and the students “like it better:.  I always told my students I didn’t care if they were happy or entertained, but I did want them to learn well and hopefully be interested enough that it wasn’t too painful.  But content always won out for me over form.  Money will NOT fix anything until the entire public school system is rebuilt from the ground up into something that is again respectable.  And, for heaven’s sake, stop requiring teachers who move to new areas to recertify — a valid license to teach in one state should suffice in any if the teacher to whom it is issued is good in the first place.  If not, fire them — oh yes, junk tenure too.  No other profession protects the incompetent quite the way teaching does.  BUT do NOT evaluate teachers based on tests that don’t measure what they learned in any particular course — instead evaluate them on how one class progressed from the beginning to the end of the year in overall achievement….can students actually perform the tasks they supposedly learned??  The answer should be a resounding YES….good luck to all teachers who are still in the “profession”…..too bad the career I once loved has been ruined in recent years….