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I am very concerned about the President's desire to penalize or reward teachers for their students performance. I can not imagine how this will be done fairly and consistently. I am currently teaching in a school that has 68 percent free and reduced lunch. I have been labeled as the teacher that is great at working with the special education students. I am heavily impacted each year with a room full of challenging students. I am so proud of even the smallest educational gains they make. I celebrate the goals they reach even though they may only be baby steps and no where close to the goals that the state wants these children to meet (with the grade-level demands of NCLB act of 2001). My district does not have class size language for teachers which can mean having 29 second graders without any IA support in our classrooms. I came from a wealthy district a few years ago and we had only 18 percent free and reduced lunch. We had class size language and usually had 18-21 students each year. I would never have more than one or two special education students in my room and it was so much easier for me to ensure all my students were meeting the demanding grade-level standards. The community had great parental support and many parents volunteering in the classrooms to help with small group instruction. The school I am currently in does not have community involvement. In fact we don't have a PTA because we can not get the parents involved. Most of our parents do not speak English and therefore can not help their child with their English homework. How can the teachers in one district be judged against the same set of standards as a teacher in another district? My administrator can not find the time to observe me once a year now and provide me a post-conference to discuss my effectiveness, how can she possibly add a measurement tool to allow me a reward or penalty for my effectiveness (and are our administrators all qualified to make this decision)?
How do we determine if a student is effectively learning using a standardized and normed assessment if we consider or at least recognize some validity to Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences and different rates of development? What are appropriate expectations for ALL students at a particular age? How do we explote and maximize each individual's intelligence strengths with the current and real limitations of current teacher to student class ratios; hours (lack of hours) that can be devloted to diagnosing, prescribing, then preparing and providing resources to accomodate individual student needs. As it is my K-1 class requires 4 full days of my time devoted to assessment and reporting each trimester (12 full days each year I am unavailable to class instruction of these (K-1) students, including 20 hours of parent conferencing on minimum school days. I, as a teacher know where my students are, as well as what they 'need'. I wish I could provide what each of these kids need to optimize their learning experience, but that is not realistic. The idea of 'one-shoe-fitting-all' is the reality, though I may be able to provie 2-shoes.
Ok, now its time to measure my effectiveness as a teacher. I sure would like to be 'rewarded' with a higher salary, get that bonus, but who is going to be able to make that determination, and how will they make that determination. That assessment of my effective teacing will require a lot of someone elses' time (FTE), which is in pretty short supply now. I am observed once every other year by my administrator for 1 hour with a 15-20 minute 1:1 post evaluation conference. My administrator finds, even scheduling this assessment problematic.
Authentic assessment goes on continuously, minute by minute, day by day with constant adjustments and tweaking. This is the skill (ART) that a peson develops over many years. There has to be a better way to educate.
The consensus amongst my grade team is that we do not teach to the test. But lets get real; the test is suppose to summarize the standards based curriculum, is it not? I see a huge gap between the curriculum and the test, as well as developmentally inappropriate test structure for first graders. Another question teachers need to ask themselves, their district, and the creators of curriculum is, is the curriculum based on the correct grade standards????? Now, I'm not talking about the state standards test here since I teach first graders. We test first graders 4-6 times over the year in language arts and math. In order for my students to remember vocabulary they were exposed to 5 weeks ago, I must review and find ways to incorporate skills into daily and weekly lessons. Ultimately, if we tracked students' skills from year to year we would possibly see which teachers taught to the test for increased scores. Then, the test is useless if there is not equality across the districts in testing/teaching practices.
The type of testing being done is at best ineffective, at worst harmful.
Standardized testing may indicate what demographic a child fits in, no more.
Will testing be minimized as the primary tool for assessment and accountability. One can only hope.
For your readers interested in learning how to effectively assess performance for problem identification, long term corrective action and continual improvement read:
"Understanding Variation" by Donald Wheeler, SPC Press.
"Will teaching to the test decline under President Obama?"
Well, I think we need to define "teaching to the test".
If it's defined as teachers preparing students by exposing them to specific test items seen on standardized test, that's one thing (and a negative thing at that).
If it's defined as teachers preparing students concepts that test items are designed to measure, that's another thing (and a positive thing at that).
The question then becomes which definition are teachers adhering to and whether there will be a decline or increase when determining whether each is "better" or "worse" for improving student achievement.
If one considers standardized tests as only one of many assessment tools available, the question becomes more about how to align curriculum (i.e., concepts, understandings, products, processes, etc.), assessment (e.g., summative and formative), and instruction in a way that best serves the learner.