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How Our Principal Thinks Using Test Scores To Evaluate Teachers Will Hurt Students — What Are Your Thoughts?

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Earlier today, I posted about New York Principal Carol Burris’ great article on how using test scores to evaluate hurts students.

I sent it to our school’s principal, Ted Appel (who has shared his thoughts on educational policy in previous posts here) to get his reaction. He liked it a lot, and shared these ideas on other ways their use in teacher evaluation can hurt students:

Using test scores to evaluate teachers can also have a significant impact on the inclusion of Special Education students. Fully including students with learning and other disabilities is not only a civil right, but pedagogically supported by research. While many special education students may struggle academically in “regular” education classes, and score poorly on standardized tests, there are significant social and emotional benefits to inclusion. Evaluating teachers based on test scores may create resistance to full inclusion for non-pedagogic reasons. And in a strange twist on the argument, some teachers may want special education students in their classes who take the CMA (California Modified Assessment) Students taking these tests may provide a boost to test scores and result in a better evaluation. [These teachers may or may not be the best placement for those students] Either way, what is clear is that using test data for teacher evaluations distorts decision-making away from the best interest of the student.

Using test data to evaluate teachers has another significant impact on middle and high school course selection for students. Schools already rig the system by placing students in less challenging courses in the belief that they will score better in lower level courses. This is particularly true in math and science, which is greatly detrimental to student preparation for college admission and success.

Do you have other ideas on how using test scores in teacher evaluations hurts students?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. I agree with his thinking IF your state has a “modified” state test, however, Arizona is one of many that does not. This is why Arizona teachers amongst many are not happy with the use of standardized tests for ALL students in their evaluations. Our teachers have always said that special ed students should be tested on a modified test version, but that has not happened, and as far as I know it won’t be happening with the new tests either. Verys sad.

  2. If the teacher evaluation system uses a value-added measure, teachers should have more incentive to include students with disabilities. Students who have been included have the greatest capacity for gains as opposed to high achieving students who may have little margin for improvement since they may already be topping out on the evaluative measurement tool.

    But I suspect that people who don’t want to include students in the first place will attempt to use this as one more excuse.

    Besides, if a value added is not the metric for teacher evaluation, who would teach special education of any type? Grade level attainment isn’t always a reasonable expectation for students with disabilities. This example goes to the point that teachers and their unions need to stay involved in teacher evaluation procedures. Outsiders aren’t fully aware of all the issues involved.

  3. My great fear is actually what happens to special ed students whose post-graduation goals may include supported employment and living services. These students were previously able to learn life and vocational skills primariy, but many of them no longer qualify to take Florida’s alternate assessment. Often they are being driven to reach academically unrealistic goals, based solely on the constraints of the test format. I worry that they are at increased risk for institutionalization after high school, because they haven’t been adequately prepared to face daily challenges, and yet are still unemployable and not collegebound.
    Our government should understand the social repercussions of some of its best-intentioned policies. I’m thinking that those intentions may very well be paving the way to an unpleasant place.

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