Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Testing,Teacher Ratings and School Competition Turning the US into East Germany
As today's NY Times reveals, teachers at one of my favorite elementary schools in the city have been accused by a teachers at a neighboring junior high school of cheating on 5th Grade tests. They decided to call for an investigation after their own teacher ratings had dropped and the school was attacked in the newspaper after the teacher ratings were published. This kind of pitting of teachers against teachers and schools against schools is a logical outcome of using scores on high stakes tests to judge teacher effectiveness and introducing "competition" to public education, the official policy of the US Department of Education and its "Race to the Top" initiative. Since teacher effectiveness, under the value added schema, is judged grade to grade, and since teachers jobs will depend on those ratings, it will result in teachers carefully scrutinizing the performance of students in grades below them and looking carefully for irregularities, whether that is within their own school , or another school The result, teachers become a kind of Education Stasi, ready to report their colleagues to the authorities if they do anything to jeopardize their status. So much for collegiality, so much for cooperation, so much for collective effort. The result is a climate of fear and mutual suspicion that will make a mockery of the kind of values that best promote learning and democratic citizenship. As I wrote in my letter to the principal of the school being investigated: "A system that turns teachers into informers to protect the integrity oftests and ratings which were bogus to begin with is profoundly anddeeply immoral" The misuse of high stakes testing is making our schools a nightmare for students teachers and administrators When will the madness stop?