Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Happens When Test Scores Are Used in High Stakes Decisions? Stupid Decision-Making

What happens when schools and school districts let test scores rule the day? Check out letter of resignation by a 14 year veteran teacher from Tennessee who was found "ineffective" due to her TVAAS ratings.

"What Defines an 'Ineffective' Teacher?"

What immediately becomes clear to me is the following:

  • The problem with the accountability in education movement, like in this case, is that too many educators, politicians and state level testing bureaucrats think "any old test will do" when it comes to obtaining data for teacher ratings. Little time is taken to check to see if the tests really test what is being taught, and whether or not using the tests to evaluate teacher effectiveness is even valid. In this accountability madness, there is always an assumption that test data does not lie and that it's objectivity is a given. Both are wrong. Test data is just numbers, but the inferences, like teacher effectiveness, we make from those numbers can be wrong. Any old test will not do when high stakes of any kind are attached.
  • Our education system has become blinded by its own test data. In other words, our education decision-makers have blinders on because it is somehow seen sacred that all decisions should be tied to data, and good data are test scores. You can't rely on teacher judgment because it is tainted with subjectivity, so those making these bizarre decisions about accountability through test scores and value-added measures immediately discard everything else. In this case, and I fear in many others around the country, the teaching profession and our education system is being destroyed by "testing fundamentalists" who have become blind to reason and to the possibility that their teacher evaluation systems are hurting real people and even that they might be wrong.
  • The "testing fundamentalists" are beginning to see the fruits of their blind, ideological belief in sacredness of test score data. When test scores matter above all else, educational decision-making gets just "plain stupid." It is just plain bizarre that a 14 year veteran teacher was coached by an instructional coach WHO WAS ONCE HER STUDENT TEACHER. The person she mentored four years earlier is now mentoring her. When educators blindly follow the data trail, they end up in bizarre situations like this one.
As we get ready to start yet another school year, I can only hope that common sense and wisdom will somehow prevail in the age of accountability. Testing is has become so rampant, hours of our time is consumed with it. We are using a single test score to make high stakes decisions about students and teachers. We are even judging whole schools based on these test scores. It is just stupid!

The "testing fundamentalists" as I call them just can't let go of this assumption that if "We somehow find or create the right test, students are going to learn more effectively." 

I've got news for them. That mythical test does not and will not ever exist. The "Holy Grail of Testing" does not exist. Let's just quit being stupid with data.

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