“With negotiators trying to hammer out an agreement that would end Chicago’s teachers strike, one of the key sticking points is how to evaluate whether a teacher is doing a good job, an issue that has riled school boards across the U.S. in recent years.
Chicago’s school leaders are proposing that student performance on standardized tests count toward 25 percent of a teacher’s assessment, growing to 40 percent in five years, according to NBCChicago.com.”
I had no idea that the Chicago strike hinged on such a ridiculous compensation proposal. Standardized tests are a really crappy way to measure a teacher’s performance, and the fact that Chicago plans to boost them to almost half a teacher’s pay is extremely disturbing, to say the least.
It’s a good idea to put some kind of merit structure into teacher assessments, but here’s why standardized tests are not the right basis for that:
- First, teachers will be financially rewarded for forcing kids to do test prep all day long. That’s the documented, most-effective way to improve these scores: Have kids take practices tests, over and over, instead of actually doing anything creative or really learning anything.
- Second, mostly low-income kids will be forced to do this, because they’re mostly the ones with the low test scores. Kids in more-affluent districts score much better on these tests (mostly because of the advantages of their backgrounds), so they won’t be forced to do test-prep every day at school; they’ll get to do all sorts of creative, fun and effective learning stuff that the low-income kids won’t. Also, teachers in lower-income districts will be unfairly financially penalized vs. teachers lucky enough to each in higher-income districts.
- Third, standardized tests measure what’s easy (and inexpensive) to test: the ability to spit back facts in response to multiple-choice questions. That’s not the ability that measures truly valuable learning.
So I’m with the Chicago teachers all the way here: This education proposal really sucks, and I’m disappointed that Rahm Emanuel is behind it. I don’t understand why so many supposedly “progressive” politicians are so utterly clueless when it comes to education.