"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Report Offers Withering Critique of MA Plan to Evaluate Teachers Based on MCAS Scores

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Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning 
By the Massachusetts Working Group on Teacher Evaluation of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing 

2 Page Executive Summary 

For immediate release, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A proposed teacher evaluation system scheduled for a June 28 vote by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is deeply flawed, potentially damaging, and should not be approved, according to a new report from a group of educators and analysts assembled by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). The report, “Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning” is being released today and criticizes the state’s proposal for five major defects:

  • It will require districts to use MCAS test scores  to judge educators.
  • It will require districts to evaluate every teacher in every grade and subject with two “assessments” each academic year, forcing districts to make or purchase dozens of new tests at a time of budget cutbacks and teacher layoffs.
  • It relies on pseudo-scientific “growth” or “value-added” measures that are unable to adequately distinguish good teachers from bad, according to a report from the National Research Council and studies by independent experts.
  • It will increase pressure to teach to low-level tests and drive good teachers away from working where they are most needed;  and
  • It will damage the learning environment by forcing teachers to “compete” for high-scoring students instead of cooperating to improve learning for all.
FairTest policy analyst Lisa Guisbond, who co-edited the report, said parents and citizens need to be educated about the negative consequences of this proposal. “Once they understand the potential impact of this, I believe parents will be alarmed. Our over-tested students would have to take many more standardized exams, which will further cut into time for real learning,” Guisbond said. “The Department and its supporters say the new system will be ‘objective’ and ‘scientific.’ But research shows these ‘value added’ and ‘growth’ models are no better than a coin toss at sorting good teachers from bad.”

FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill noted that this system is opposed to the approaches taken by the nations whose school systems are most often praised for their equity and excellence. “Among the most striking features of successful nations such as Finland and Singapore are their professional recruitment, development, and support, as well as the pay and respect given to teachers. They don’t use tests to judge schools or teachers. Sadly, this sets them apart from our own country.”

Groups such as the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees have also expressed concerns about a lack of resources to implement such a test-heavy system.

The Working Group members include educators and analysts from the elementary, high school and university levels. They are:

- Lisa Guisbond, Policy Analyst, FairTest
- James Horn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Education, Cambridge College
- Jacqueline King
- Jonathan King, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular Biology, MIT
- Louis Kruger, Psy.D., Director, Northeastern University School Counseling Program
- Monty Neill, Ed.D., Executive Director, FairTest
- Ann O’Halloran, Angier School Teacher, retired, 2007 Massachusetts Preserve America History Teacher of the Year
- Bill Schechter, Lincoln-Sudbury High School History Teacher, Retired

The report and an executive summary are at http://fairtest.org/flawed-ma-teacher-evaluation-proposal-report-home.

Members of the working group are available to discuss the report and the proposal. They can be contacted via FairTest at (617) 477-9792.


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