An alleged cheating scandal in Washington D.C., and the recent, actual cheating scandal in Atlanta have opponents of accountability and reform lined up to decry the use of student assessment exams to measure teacher effectiveness. These guardians of the status quo are out in force, and have now deftly hijacked the student examination “process”. These folks now deridingly refer to the common practice of examining students for skills mastery assessment as “high stakes testing” “dumbing down education”, or “teaching to the test”. Somehow, this group has managed to make “testing” a dirty word. Grasping at straws to defile the practice of student testing further, many of this mindset argue that the utilization of test data for teacher evaluations will lead to more cheating in more school districts.
Funny how all this fear-mongering anger is just now coming to the surface, though. Standardized testing has been performed in America for decades, and for all this time as the resultant data showed that our students were learning less and less compared to their peers in other nations (even as public school expenditures were rising exponentially), nobody thought testing was so bad. But nothing was changing, American education policy was stuck in the mud, more money was being spent, yet we were still falling behind countries like China.
So “A Nation at Risk” came along in the 1980s, and in 2002 Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind was enacted. And now, in 2011,
we are at a point where standardized test data is actually being used to determine and grade district, and yes, even teacher effectiveness—and suddenly testing must be the most evil thing we have ever done! The nerve, the gall, of anyone to think testing is fair, let alone vital! But, is this vitriol being spewed because now this testing data will matter and mean something?
Florida has passed Senate Bill 736, which, in part, stipulates that teacher compensation must be tied to teacher effectiveness, and effectiveness will in part be determined by student test performance. While I agree that basing a teacher’s evaluation and pay solely on test data from one test (and I have stated this publically many times) is foolish, I strongly believe that not looking at student test data when evaluating teachers is equally stupid.
States like Florida have it right; Student achievement must be measured and student learning data should and will be used as one part of a multi-faceted educator evaluation. And the only way to do this is through the use of standardized testing data. This is not a perfect teacher evaluation system—but yes, it is much better than the current evaluations we use which are badly flawed.
Meanwhile, Hollywood movie star types like Matt Damon carry the left-leaning NEA water and opine that using testing to determine teacher effectiveness is ridiculous, and that this will ruin education and somehow zap the creativity of students.
I wonder what Matt Damon would have us base student learning gains on, if not through the use of standardized testing? I wonder if Matt Damon thinks all testing should be abolished?
But the bigger question for the elites like Matt Damon who occasionally come down to Earth to tell us how smart they are and stupid we are would go something like this:
Matt, we already know that because you have so much love for and confidence in public schools that your daughters will be attending private school, but…..when you get a chest pain as you get older, will you search out a cardiologist who attended an out of the country “creative learning environment” type of medical school—or will you insist upon a U.S. trained specialist (who aced his MCAT to get into a prestigious U.S. Med School) who has passed all three legs of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)?
Or how about this one..
Matt, do you care how your private Lear Jet pilot did on the knowledge portion of his FAA exam, the written test, and was that combined with where he was trained important to you?
Testing is important and measuring test results says a lot about those who have trained the student, even if guys like Matt Damon say otherwise.
He makes good movies, though!