Saturday, February 22, 2014

Don't Measure Me By My Students' Test Scores

Cross-posted at Brilliant or Insane 
As a lifelong educator, I’d like to believe that all teachers and administrators understand we can’t use standardized test scores to measure teacher effectiveness. So, I was shocked the other day when an educator, one who I think highly of, used test scores to compare two teachers’ effectiveness.

All of teacher A’s students passed the standardized test. Teacher B’s students didn’t fair as well, but teacher B’s classes were filled with special education students, rule breakers and fence-riders (those students who are easily swayed by their peers).

As a teacher, I loved teaching the most challenging students, so I was taken back by this educator’s dubious claim. If he were to look at my standardized test scores, would he think any less of me as a teacher?

When you teach challenging students, the state-mandated curriculum must not be ignored, but often it should take a back seat to the unwritten curriculum. Comparatively, the standard curriculum is easy to teach. If test scores were my primary concern, when a student misbehaved, I could have simply stated, “John, do the work or get a referral.” I then could return to teaching the mandate curriculum. My students’ test scores may have been higher.

But, I aimed to teach life skills, to build trusting relationships with all of my students and to help students learn from their errors (be they academic or behavioral).

Teaching the unwritten curriculum includes no absolutes. Every decision is complex and weighs heavily. Instead of focusing solely on test scores, I aimed to build students’ social and life skills. Instead of plowing through the curriculum, I taught with empathy. I tried to never leave a student behind; I never gave up on a student.

Sadly, test scores cannot measure these attributes. Teacher effectiveness can only be marginally reflected in the scores of our students. Please, never rely on test scores to measure teacher effectiveness.

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