Lindy McCulloch, David DeLeeuw
Lindy McCulloch, Asociación de Maestros Unidos
Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School
I teach in a small, inner-city school where I help underserved students understand the scientific complexities of the world around them. The power of education is sustained because I work with individuals who believe that all students have the potential to learn and grow.
Two years ago our union members decided to test that core value by voting to pilot a new way of evaluating teachers that includes an element of student performance on standardized tests. This model does not tie teacher evaluation to student achievement levels but rather to student growth. This distinction is important; effective teaching leads to growth for all students whether or not they earn advanced scores on CSTs. Student growth scores need to be a factor in evaluating teachers to hold educators accountable for making content knowledge accessible to their students. As daunting as a long list of standards is, students have the right to learn that material, and it’s a teacher’s responsibility to expose them to it.
Obviously, there is more to teaching than covering all the state standards. Student performance is only part of a teacher’s effectiveness score. Student growth scores account for less than 40 percent of any teacher’s score; the percentage varies based on whether they teach a tested subject. All teachers are still formally observed by administration and rated on a rubric that examines everything from the measurability of lesson objectives to the amount of peer interaction in the classroom. In addition, teachers are also rated based on schoolwide student growth and survey results from students, parents and other faculty. Teachers have more reasons to collaborate, and all stakeholders are able to provide feedback on a how a teacher is doing.
I recognize it’s a controversial topic, but isn’t it time for teachers to be evaluated on the outcome of our work like other professionals? Doctors are evaluated on the recovery of patients as well as their bedside manner. Shouldn’t teachers be evaluated on the learning of students along with classroom climate?
Another concern regarding student performance as a measure of teaching is that it negatively impacts those who teach traditionally underperforming students. If we use student growth instead of student achievement as our measure, there is no discrepancy. All students are capable of learning more than they knew at the beginning of the year.
Ultimately, the true advantage of using student growth and student surveys to measure teacher effectiveness is that it allows teachers to be evaluated by the people who have the best idea about what goes on in their classrooms day after day. It empowers the students to demonstrate their learning and indicate if their needs are being met.
In the end, isn’t that what teaching is all about?
David DeLeeuw, Oakland Education Association
Oakland Technical High School
I have been a science teacher in Oakland for 25 years. I’m on my association’s bargaining committee, and we’ve been researching evaluation models, holding forums at four schools around the city so that we could start a dialogue about this issue.
There are two major problems with using standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluation: It is unfair to those who teach students with low scores, and it encourages a narrowing of the curriculum toward what can be tested.
Students tend to have lower scores if they are English learners, come from families living in poverty, are homeless or transient, or attend schools with many other low-scoring students. They have less reliable scores, less stable scores from year to year, and often don’t make a year’s progress in a year, which is how they got behind. Even if you could “correct” for students coming in with lower scores, evaluations for teachers of these students are still less reliable, less stable, and show less progress. Teachers know that teaching students with higher scores will lead to better evaluations. We need incentives to teach students with low scores — and to continue teaching them. Using test scores in teacher evaluations would do the opposite.
Using test scores in teacher evaluations will also incentivize teaching to the test and emphasizing parts of the curriculum that will be tested. Good teachers in good schools may not follow this path, but teachers under pressure to improve — and schools under pressure to raise scores at all costs — will do what they have to do. There is far too much pressure to narrow the curriculum already; we should not make teacher evaluations another pressure that goes against good teaching.
I think that observation by a trained and experienced evaluator should be the bedrock of evaluation, and there are ways to include student work and student progress that do not have the insidious effects of using standardized test scores.
We are being pushed to use standardized test scores to evaluate everything, including students, schools and teachers, by people who want schools to run like businesses. Businesses have only one standard metric: profits. To run schools in a similar way requires one standard metric: test scores.
We want education to produce more than test scores. We want students who can research, solve problems, who present what they know and who know how to participate as a student and as a citizen.
Making standardized test scores part of teacher evaluation would be one more step away from this broader view of education.
Editor’s Note: CTA’s Framework for Teacher Evaluation recognizes student performance and growth is a critical part of any formative evaluation process. Teachers use test scores to inform their instruction and access student learning. However, CTA believes student scores on standardized testing should not be used in summative evaluations to make high-stakes decisions. Any evaluation process must be multifaceted and based on multiple measures. See www.cta.org/evaluationframework.