Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tenure The Sequel: We Are not the Droids You Are Hoping For

(from )
One of the recent issues in the Chicago Teacher Strike was about the use of state-mandated tests as 40 percent of the evaluation.  This is by no means a new idea.  They finally settled on it being 30 percent of the evaluation.  You already know, if you've been reading these what I think of state-mandated testing on the use of evaluating anything. Teachers do not object to evaluations.  It makes sense and helps the teacher grow, but there are much better ways to evaluate than using a test that really evaluates very little.

Let's not forget that one test does not fit all.  The standards set by "test makers" and politicians are often a little more that arbitrary.  What is more, a test operates on a scale that treats everyone as if they were widgets in a factory.  So if one doesn't fit the mold, it's not their creativity or their ability to judge a problem from outside the box that is measured.  They fail because they are no longer inside the box.

Recently there has been a move in Colorado to again get rid of that evil tenure, even though tenure has not technically existed in Colorado for twenty plus years – no one has apparently informed the Colorado congress of this. The new law is one that is astoundingly moronic. Teachers will be judged in part on the progress of students on the Colorado mandated test, now called TCAP or "tee-cap."  On the surface that sounds like a good idea. If kids don’t show progress in a particular field, the teacher they have will lose his tenure if he has it and be moved back to probationary status. 

Remember, the test means nothing to the kid except now he can blow the test in the subject areas he doesn’t like to get rid of the teacher who made him do his work instead of playing video games. Adding to the problem is state testing generally only goes through tenth grade (junior and senior teachers you’re safe for the time being unless they decide to use the ACT or something). There is the whole host of problems with testing. There is the problem that if the tests actually do work, then the bar will have to adjusted because you can only demonstrate so much improvement. Not every area is tested (in fact right now we test English, math, and science, with possibly social studies in the near future). They have no idea how to judge the other areas of teaching (so band, drama, PE, special services, and family and consumer studies, etcetera, you too are safe for the time being). And last but not least, the rubric for the evaluation required of every teacher every year is several pages asking for judgment on things that have nothing to do with the teacher and even include items beyond the classroom doors.

Goodbye Creativity...we are going to be busy testing.

How much time will all this take? A lot. Colorado has announced that they intend to do this test 3 times a year.  It's not that more hasn't been added to teachers and students in the past few years either.  It is not as if extra days are built into school calendars for the tests; they aren't. So creativity in teaching in the classroom becomes more and more limited.  Time to teach and learn becomes more and more limited.  Education becomes mandated, stale and repetitive.  The pitfalls of such testing and evaluation are many.  

Administrators will be spending three times the amount of time of evaluating, and teachers will now be worrying about keeping their job because of a test. As I said, political decisions are, as we all know, too often driven not by what actually makes a difference but by what politicians perceive as public perceptions (often created by their own propaganda machines) and their need for reelection. 

Let's also not forget cost.  Schools are already strapped for funding in most if not all states.  Well someone must be paid to make all these tests and paid to grade all these tests and then someone paid to collate the data and then someone must be paid to analyze the data and then there is postage, printing, transport...etc. In Texas, for example standardized testing will cost the state half a billion dollars over the next five years.   And of course the cost in time for administrators who must now evaluate every teacher with a document of incredible length and the cost in time to education and classes and teachers.  All for something that will not accurately measure any group, learning, learning styles, teaching, or teachers.  Is it really a cost worth paying and...

When exactly were schools supposed to go about educating kids?