Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Reason Teacher Appraisals Should Not Include Student Test Scores

In addition to the reasons I listed in June (and I think my argument about the backwash effects to be the most compelling), another has become apparent to me after reviewing the assessment procedures of the International and European baccalaureates, which I admire: not only will this proposal lead to constricted curricula, reduced learning, worse teaching, and less talented Americans; it will also reinforce limited assessment practices and therefore, again, reproduce more limited learning and learners.

The kind of assessment mainstream American education reformers commonly conceive of these days is a state standards test, which is generally a machine-friendly, human-unfriendly multiple choice instrument -- an externally conceived and scored, written (although it often requires no writing) exam. This is all obvious, but look at all this description leaves out (see what isn't there, which is never obvious):
  • relying heavily on such exams means that internal assessment, already in decline, will dwindle to nothing, making teaching less intellectually appealing than before and therefore less likely to satisfy the bright young people we would like to bring into teaching; 
  • it means that oral assessments, included in both the IB and EB as well as in European national systems but absent from general American practice prior to doctoral exams, will continue to be missing, so our speaking and listening standards will be even less taught to and therefore less learned than at present, and our students will remain relatively inarticulate prior to entering a collegiate and business world increasingly interested in persuasive oral communications, including PowerPoint presentations; 
  • it means written coursework will likely be less undertaken than at present, regardless of what the Common Core says, since the teachers will have little incentive, in a world of big student loads, big bonuses, and big bad consequences for bad test scores, to go through the time-consuming and painstaking work of teaching students to write well, regardless of the future consequences for their students (this is a good example of a way in which this reform is inconsistent with the principle of putting students first). 
All of my friends in the education reform world, and in particular President Obama, need to disabuse themselves from this proposal, which, if implemented, will harm American classrooms and children in so many ways.

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