Responding to NPR
What's At Stake For U.S. Teachers
by Alan Greenblatt
NPR’s article contained numerous errors. Here are two of them.
1. “Practically everyone in education agrees that the old system of monitoring teacher quality … is useless.”
I know of no study that shows this. The evidence indicates that American teachers are doing an excellent job, which suggests that there is no crisis in teacher evaluation: Our middle-class students score at or near the top of the world on standardized tests. Our overall unspectacular scores are due to our very high rate of poverty, among the highest among all industrialized countries, 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 4%. Poverty means lack of health care, poor nutrition, and lack of access to books, all of which impact school achievement profoundly. The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, the problem is poverty.
2. “The general public and most politicians have come to believe that looking at whether student scores in reading or math are going up is a fair gauge of whether teachers are doing a good job.”
“Chicago's public schools have proposed using test scores for 25 percent of a teacher's evaluation, rising to 40 percent over five years.”
This may be so, but it doesn’t make it true. I addressed this issue in a letter published in the Chicago Sun-Times on April 2, 2012, which agrees with comments made by Rick Ginsberg, quoted in the article.
Teacher-rating plan flawed
The Chicago Public Schools have decided that student test scores gains will be used as part of teacher evaluation [“Teacher ratings overhaul forges on despite lack of union approval, March 31].
Everything is wrong with this plan. A number of studies have shown that rating teachers using test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacher’s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit.
In addition, using test score gains for evaluation encourages gaming the system, trying to produce increases in scores by teaching test-taking strategies, not by encouraging real learning.
This is like putting a match under the thermometer and claiming you have raised the temperature of the room.
We are all interested in finding the best ways of evaluating teachers, but using student test-score gains is a lousy way to do it.
If test score gains are indeed a lousy way to rate teachers, they shouldn’t be used at all: Not for 40%, not for 25% and not even for 1% in evaluation of teachers.
Unmentioned by NPR is the biggest problem facing schools: the new standards and tests. The standards will bring with them more testing than we have ever had on this planet. So far, we have been informed that there will be tests in reading and writing and math in grades 3-8 and in high school, along with formative assessments given throughout the school year. The administration is eager to add tests in all subjects and expand testing to all grade levels. Because of the interest in measuring improvement on test scores, it is not unlikely that we will also have pretests in the fall, in order to control for the effects of summer learning and loss. Massive and continuous testing, especially high-stakes testing that affects both students and teachers, means tight control and close adherence to the prescribed curriculum, making real inquiry unlikely. Not only is this going to be very costly, but there is evidence that it won’t increase school achievement. It will rob money from where we need it, money that could protect children from the effects of poverty by improving nutrition, health care, and access to books.
Middle class American students:
Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism,
Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. Educational Research Service
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics
achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Level of poverty in US:
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
The impact of poverty:
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential
Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2);
Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1)? 26-36.
Rothstein, R. 2010. How to fix our schools. Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief #286. http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/ib286;
Rating teachers based on test-score gains:
Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Vary from year to year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.) Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;
Amount of testing:
Krashen, S. 2012. How much testing? Posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/25/stephen-krashen-how-much-testing/ AND
Posted on The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post blog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/
National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards. Pioneer Innstitute, February 2012. (www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf)
No evidence it will work:
Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/.
Krashen, S. NUT: No Unnecessary Testing. http://sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=4