Parents group: Don’t evaluate and pay teachers on test scores

A  reader sent me a link to this petition from parents in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. The parents oppose the use of test scores to determine teacher pay, saying the scores are an unreliable and unfair measure of  teacher performance and the practice will only increase testing and test prep in the schools.

The parents belong to a group called Mecklenburg Acts. The name stands for Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools.

I thought this was interesting as most of the criticisms of teacher accountability models that incorporate student test scores have been coming from within the profession. I have seen few organized parents groups take an official position.

Here is the petition:

We oppose the use of standardized test scores as an integral part of any teacher pay system developed by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

The last thing we want for our children is more standardized tests and more pressure surrounding these tests. If test scores figure into even part of a salary scale, the number of standardized tests, the time spent on test preparation and the anxiety that surrounds test taking will dramatically increase. This will not be good for schools or children.

In addition, the tremendous variation among students, classrooms, and schools makes it impossible for test results to fairly assess all teachers, even with the creation of value-added scores. Instead of fostering the creativity and cooperation that builds great schools, the use of test scores in salaries is far more likely to fuel competition and resentment.

Rather than attracting top talent to our schools, this strategy will drive both teachers and families away from CMS.

Qualitative assessments of teacher performance take more time and require more administrative fortitude, but will prove more effective in the end. We need to treat our teachers like the multifaceted professionals they are.

This does not mean that test scores should not be used in certain narrowly targeted situations, such as to reward teachers who show exceptional success in bringing up below-grade readers or to dismiss teachers whose students consistently fail to show acceptable progress. But test scores should play no role in across-the-board role pay calculations.

We call on the CMS board and staff to stop wasting time and money on a strategy that is not supported by parents and is likely to damage rather than improve our children’s education. Remove standardized test scores from pay for performance calculations.

Petition sponsored by Mecklenburg ACTS, an affiliate of Parents Across America.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

45 comments Add your comment

www.honeyfern.org

March 28th, 2011
5:33 am

“Qualitative assessments of teacher performance take more time and require more administrative fortitude, but will prove more effective in the end. We need to treat our teachers like the multifaceted professionals they are.”

Well said. Nice to hear this coming from someone other than a teacher!

mo

March 28th, 2011
5:41 am

That parent group is absolutely correct.

Lee

March 28th, 2011
5:52 am

I also agree with this article. Test data is useful to compare effectiveness at a macro level (such as system to system), but even then, you have to adjust for the inherent variables (such as demographics).

BTW, most teachers, most parents, and most administrators already know who the effective teachers and crappy teachers are. The question has always been “what is the administration doing about it?”

Poor and may be out-of-work visual art teacher

March 28th, 2011
5:58 am

Thank you Mecklenburg ACTS and Parents Across America. I hope you can inspire parents in Georgia to rally behind us multifaceted professionals.

teacher&mom

March 28th, 2011
6:44 am

This group reminds me of the article you posted last week about the Wilmington school board member.

I firmly believe we have many parents who feel the same way as the Mecklenburg ACTS group. What we need is more parents, and teachers to speak up, participate on education blogs in a positive manner, write your legislators and representatives, and show up at board meetings.

Our children need us to speak up and stop the insanity of standardized testing.

Teacher

March 28th, 2011
6:50 am

I agree with the article. Teachers should not be evaluated on test scores. There is so much more in the life of a school and instruction that requires proficiency by teachers daily on a continuous basis.

Dr NO...

March 28th, 2011
6:53 am

Theres an old saying that I think would be applicable across the board and it goes a little something like this…”Too many cooks spoil the soup.”

Here is another one…”Too many chiefs, not enough indians”.

And another…”A million Eddie Barzoons running into the future”.

Cindy Lutenbacher

March 28th, 2011
7:11 am

Amen to all of the petition! Except…rewarding teachers for bringing up the scores of struggling readers or punishing those teachers whose scores don’t progress.

Somehow, we’ve got to get it through our skulls that the tests themselves are fatally flawed and do not show anything except the financial status of families and extent of test prep. They Do Not Reveal Actual Learning.

We’ve got to stop pretending that they do.

Independent

March 28th, 2011
7:42 am

I have a better solution – fine parents for low test scores. Maybe then they would make their kids attend, study, and not act up in class.

Educator 4 life

March 28th, 2011
7:45 am

Teachers are asking to be evaluated like professionals. Doctors, accountants, scientists, and other professionals usually have some type of objective part to their evaluation. Nobody is asking that test scores be the only thing that evaluates teachers but it should be a part of a holistic assessment. The evaluation model should include some way to take into consideration student ability when they walk into the classroom and include classroom observations and professional responses to parents and others in the school. The current practices of 2 or 3 brief observations and little other parameters of teacher evaluation is a broken system. Test scores don’t give the entire picture of teacher effectiveness, but it is clear that they do a relatively good job of showing how much students are learning. Test scores show more about what learning is going on in the classroom than the current evaluation model. Stop pretending that test scores don’t reveal learning. Teachers have been using tests to determine learning for years. Lets evaluate teachers like they evaluate students. Just like in the classroom, tests aren’t the only way to evaluate the students but they are a part of the picture.

Independent

March 28th, 2011
7:47 am

The tests are not the problem. Any child who cannot figure fractions on a test probably can’t figure them in real life, either (yes, I know, there are always the 0.5% who get “test jitters” and can’t take tests). The problem lies with the students and their parents, not taking responsibility. I am sorry to see Georgia taking away the graduation test; this means a lot more students will be graduating without even the most rudimentary basic skills (I am talking basic reading and arithmetic). That is one reason employers are asking for college degrees; a high school diploma is basically the same as a piece of toilet paper, it means nothing.

Dr NO...

March 28th, 2011
7:48 am

Hmmm…I guess since there is no true and correct measurements or base on which to evaluate teacher effectiveness/performane then I would propose all salary increases, for teachers, be suspended until such time as a verifiable matrix is produced.

Dr NO...

March 28th, 2011
7:50 am

“I am sorry to see Georgia taking away the graduation test; this means a lot more students will be graduating without even the most rudimentary basic skills (I am talking basic reading and arithmetic).”

Also, they will be graduating strait into the prison system.

Dr NO...

March 28th, 2011
7:52 am

“Doctors, accountants, scientists” LOL…thats a good one. Evaluate a 6th grade history teacher as if they were a doctor. Oh yea…good idea and quite logical, Captain.

atlmom

March 28th, 2011
7:56 am

as said above, we all know the good schools and the bad schools. it’s just that only some of us can choose where to send our kids to school. Most definitely evaluating teachers on test scores only leads to what we have here in APS – teachers being accused of cheating on the tests. Why is it in the teaching profession that the supervisors of the teachers don’t do the evaluations? Why is it that we don’t think that’s okay when every other profession does it that way?
the only way to fix all of what is going on is for parents to have more school choice. Clearly our governments do not know how to run a school.

Jordan Kohanim

March 28th, 2011
8:13 am

Thank you for posting this, Maureen. How refreshing! I agree with teacher&mom; everyone needs to become more vocal. There are plenty of people who find problems with this type evaluation instrument, but they are either too busy or too scared to speak out.

PatDowns

March 28th, 2011
8:22 am

@atlmom 7:56 – “Most definitely evaluating teachers on test scores only leads to what we have here in APS – teachers being accused of cheating on the tests….”

No, what we have at APS are TOP LEVEL ADMINISTRATORS putting the squeeze on teachers to cheat through intimidation and threats of losing their jobs.

atlmom

March 28th, 2011
8:37 am

@patdowns: you don’t think that had to do with administrators being told that test scores need to rise? You don’t think that we’d have the same outcomes if teachers were told that their raises/whether they keep their jobs would be based on test scores?

Dr. Tim

March 28th, 2011
8:43 am

Especially if the teachers are cheating…..Just sayin’.

Michael Moore

March 28th, 2011
9:02 am

Two weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t have much to say as he quietly dismantled his 75 million-teacher incentive pay experiment.

Begun in 2007 through 2010, the merit pay program involved 20,000 teachers in 200 high needs schools, and provided that teachers could receive $3000 in raises if they met their targets, which were based largely on state tests. Teachers could earn $1500 if their students showed improvement.

Harvard economist, Roland Fry, in his study of the experiment published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, said, “If anything, student achievement declined.”

Using math and English test scores as the main indicators, researchers were surprised that middle school students were actually statistically worse off, as scores declined across the experiment.

Another study on the same experiment conducted by researchers at Columbia University concluded: “We find little evidence that the program led to an overall increase in student achievement or had any impact on a variety of other outcomes, including classroom activities, tutoring, or administrative decisions. Nor did the program reduce teacher turnover or improve the quality of the teaching pool within eligible schools.”

A Conservative Voice

March 28th, 2011
9:19 am

@Dr NO…

March 28th, 2011
6:53 am
Theres an old saying that I think would be applicable across the board and it goes a little something like this…”Too many cooks spoil the soup.”

“Broth”

Keep ‘em coming DR. No….short, concise and to the point

David Sims

March 28th, 2011
9:27 am

Ah, some wisdom appears. The parents’ group is right. Test scores say as much or more about the students’ intelligence as they do about the teachers’ abilities to teach. If the students were all equally smart, or if each teacher got exactly the same mix of IQs among the students in their classrooms, then the variation among the students would be controlled, and the differences in test scores would reflect the teaching skills of the teachers. But, of course, the variation of the students is never controlled in these experiments, and it is a foolish policy which grades teachers on test scores when those scores are influenced by factors for which the teachers are neither to blame nor able to remedy.

Ernest

March 28th, 2011
9:32 am

We oppose the use of standardized test scores as an integral part of any teacher pay system developed by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

It is easy to agree with this position. I do believe some testing be a part of teacher evaluation/compensation system, i.e. use of an annual growth model. Standardized test scores are not an good instrument to use as it would change teacher behavior as to what they would focus on in the classrrom, which ultimately will impact student performance.

Toto

March 28th, 2011
9:37 am

It’s easy. Each school should publish COGATT, ITBS, and CRCT scores for each student, along with teacher name and classroom grade. Of course, student’s name would not displayed. Parents could make their own conclusions based on these scores. If enough parents complained about a teacher, perhaps that would be a big clue that they should be fired. The COGATT would show what sort of student the teacher has, the ITBS would show general mastery of grade level curriculum, and CRCT scores would be exposed for the scam that they are. The classroom grades would monitor grade inflation. It’s not rocket science folks!

Concerned

March 28th, 2011
9:38 am

@Dr. No

Why not value education as much as medicene? Practiced by a skilled individual, prevention is always more effective than treatment.

We all know you were bullied as a child, Dr. No.

Cobb History Teacher

March 28th, 2011
10:11 am

“as said above, we all know the good schools and the bad schools.”

as well as what makes them good or bad we know this and so do politicians however they won’t admit it as they don’t want to insult their constituents. We all know that if teachers were sole cause of good and bad schools the county would move teachers around to try and fix the broken schools. The real problem is the demographics of “good” vs. “bad” schools. Take both and look at the number of students on free and reduced lunch, the number of students from single parent homes, the number of students who come from homes with a history of substance abuse, etc. etc. etc. I’ll bet the “good schools” have low instances of the above and the “bad schools” have instances. Face it we can look at the facts or we can continue to blame teachers and the schools.

Dr NO...

March 28th, 2011
10:26 am

Why not value education as much as medicene? Practiced by a skilled individual, prevention is always more effective than treatment.

A doctor should be judged the same as a 6th grade history teacher….Apples and Oranges. A Doc has far more value and should be treated as such than a history teacher. Your priorties are misplaced. Perhaps you left them in the toilet at your home?

Concerned

March 28th, 2011
10:35 am

@Dr. No

Priorities misplaced? You obviouusly have never had a child moving through the educational system. Only, a parent can understand the priorities involved in education. My priorities are with me Dr. No. I would not have them take up space in your abode, good Dr.

Scott Allen

March 28th, 2011
10:36 am

I agree, it is unfair to evaluate teachers based on test scores. Not all incoming students are comparable. Tests scores should be used as a check to ensure students are held accountable for learning the standards (prevent social promotion) and that teachers are held accountable for assigning appropriate grades (prevent grade inflation). If we would use test scores the proper way, then a lot of today’s issues in education would simply fade away.

[...] if not impossible, swings in scores, in six states and Washington. (These cheating stories make this parent petition in opposition of test scores in teacher evaluations all the more [...]

Cindy Lutenbacher

March 28th, 2011
11:10 am

Dear Educator 4 Life,
My bad. I should have said the standardized tests reveal nothing. That’s where studying the independent research about standardized testing is important, and all of it supports what I say about standardized tests and scores. There really isn’t a proper or useful way to use these standardized tests.
There are tons of other ways to assess student learning, and those are the strategies that we need. Standardized test scores tell us nothing about what students have actually learned.
I speak as both a public school parent and an educator of more than a quarter century, and as one who has intently studied this issue.

Independent

March 28th, 2011
11:25 am

Maybe we should also judge doctors according to the same formula – how well the patient fares. Of course, geriatrists and oncologists should all be fired. Or maybe corporate CEOs – if a company does not improve its profit every year, the CEO is fired, no matter what the economy.

Just Wondering...

March 28th, 2011
11:53 am

@ Toto – I don’t think you understand the different types of testing. The COGAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) is a sort of IQ test; it would show “what sort of student the teacher had.” However, the ITBS is a norm-referenced test, and not curriculum-based. It would not “show general mastery of grade level curriculum.” Rather it shows broad knowledge of general material from multiple grade levels, and it has weighted questions of varying difficulty. You can never have 100% of students score in the 99%ile, where you could possibly have 100% of students “exceed standards on a criterion-referenced test.

A criterion-referenced test would “show general mastery of grade level curriculum,” as that is what a good CRCT should do. The CRCT is a bad test, but that is the test-makers issue, not the type of test. some states have very good “CRCTs” although they probably call them something else.

You are correct though – a child with high COGAT and ITBS scores should do well on a CRCT if they teacher AND student did their jobs.

Schools21

March 28th, 2011
12:16 pm

“Qualitative assessments of teacher performance take more time and require more administrative fortitude, but will prove more effective in the end. We need to treat our teachers like the multifaceted professionals they are.”

Most teacher evaluation systems are written to provide the opportunity for qualitative assessment of teacher performance. The problem is not the evaluation systems; it’s the fact that the vast majority of building administrators do not implement the systems the way they are intended. Most administrators treat teacher evaluation as a last-minute paperwork hoop to jump through only when the HR office starts breathing down their necks to get the documentation turned in. As a result, teachers do not view the process as valuable and a reliable measure of true performance. This is also why almost every teacher eligible for “professional status” (tenure) gets it.

The reason why principals and APs don’t put teacher evaluation at the top of the priority list is because most superintendents don’t evaluate principals specifically on the frequency and quality of their evaluation of teachers. And the reason why most superintendents don’t do this is because most boards of education don’t evaluate superintendents on how well they evaluate principals on teacher evaluation. It all starts at the top.

Most board members assume, incorrectly, that superintendents and principals already do this as a matter of course, so they assign endgame criteria for evaluation of administrators, such as aggregate test scores. There is not a process in place (although there IS on paper) for meaningful supervision and evaluation of teachers to make sure that they have what they need and know what they need to know to produce high student achievement outcomes. Teachers who are assigned to high-performing kids will have good outcomes; teachers assigned to less skilled students usually have poorer outcomes, unless the teacher is an accomplished individual who understands the state curriculum framework and how to teach to the standards in a powerful way. It’s a total hit-and-miss game.

The imposition of accountability measures (high-stakes testing) has increased the pressure on top administrators to produce results. Rather than going back to the fundamentals of teacher supervision and evaluation that they learn in graduate school and actually IMPLEMENTING them and following the process, they resort to pressuring teachers, demanding drill and kill, and imposing pacing charts, benchmark testing, and other one-size-fits-all measures.

The crisis in public education in this country is not primarily a teacher issue, although there needs to be plenty of upgrade in what is expected of teachers if they truly want to be called professionals, such as staying current on the research of best practices. The crisis originated in the lack of accomplished school leadership.

(I did my dissertation on this topic, so I’m not just throwing down generalities here. If anyone wants citations, I’ll be glad to provide them.)

Socrates

March 28th, 2011
1:12 pm

The tests are taken from the standards a teacher is supposed to be teaching. If the teacher is either ineffective at teaching the students or simply lazy then the test scores would be lower and this teacher should go through a series of steps with termination as an option. First, this teacher should face more evaluations by master teachers and receive more training. Too often the effective teachers are trained with the ineffective or the effective are the only ones attending extra training. Make low scoring teachers receive the majority of professional development to get their teaching on track. Many times what students and peer teachers say are “Great teachers” are those that are lazy (oh boy a movie day) or get side tracked from what they are supposed to be teaching (”don’t worry we’ll mention her sewing project and not have to do a thing!”). The standards are there to show what is minimally expected to be taught in each class….so how can you be failing???? One bad class should not get a teacher in trouble but a couple of years worth of data should not lie. I for one teach in a rural title 1 school (over 50% of the students eligible for free/reduced lunches) and have never had an underperforming class. I read the state standards…try to see all that might fit into the topic and then begin developing lessons that meet the standard while keeping students engaged. I also continuously retest prior topics and have several spontaneous review days built into my lesson plan that offers fun activities while reviewing what we have covered. Teachers that can’t get students to learn should be let go….Period. The students are the purpose not the worry over whether or not a teacher is effective. If in doubt…get rid of the teacher.

Toto

March 28th, 2011
1:45 pm

@just wondering
I am familiar with the differences in assessments. Each one listed gives the parent a piece of the evaluation puzzle. When viewed together and as long as it includes the entire class’ scores, trends can be observed. This gives a fair, global view of the teacher’s performance and an individual /class comparison for the student. A parent could then conclude that perhaps her child’s poor performance is not the fault of the teacher. A different set of data results might indicate that the teacher needs to go. This is basic statistical analysis. HOW HARD IS THAT? All involved are held accountable, and it is up to the parent to take action.

Cobb History Teacher

March 28th, 2011
1:46 pm

@Just wondering

“You are correct though – a child with high COGAT and ITBS scores should do well on a CRCT if they teacher AND student did their jobs.”

Unless you in middle school. When giving the COGAT or the ITBS the first question usually is will this count? This indicates that some students (many in some cases) don’t try their best on the test.

Toto

March 28th, 2011
2:17 pm

@CHT
The COGAT only tests the student’s innate abilities, not what the teacher has taught. If he/she is not motivated to do his/her best on that test, then the score will be lower, which WILL accurately reflect the academic aptitude of the student (poor motivation). A brainy student who doesn’t try is still a poor student. This is why ALL of these tests must be included to form a more accurate evaluation. Both a low COGATT and a low ITBS score would NOT be evidence that the teacher is doing a poor job. It would place some of the accountability on the student.

Cobb History Teacher

March 28th, 2011
2:41 pm

@Toto

Yes I understand that. I was merely pointing out that many middle school students don’t put forth 100% effort if they know it won’t affect their grade. This means many times students are far more capable than their test might suggest. This also rings true for CRCT tests that don’t count for retention i.e. language arts, science and social studies. Which begs the question how reliable are these tests.

Toto

March 28th, 2011
3:50 pm

California hits the GOLD STANDARD for creative teacher evaluations:

“y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y – Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.”

I am not making this up…
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-adv-value-add-20110328,0,3903343.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

Just Wondering...

March 28th, 2011
4:07 pm

@ CHT – that’s why I capitalized the “AND” – the students have to do their best, and they have to be accountable, too.

@ Toto – I didn’t get that you fully understood the differences, based on your original comment. The ITBA is not necessarily curriculum-based. Example is middle school science – 6th is Earth, 7th is Life, and 8th is Physical, but the ITBS asks about all three.

Toto

March 28th, 2011
4:09 pm

@CHT
Since I home school, I hire a qualified tester to administer the COGATT and ITBS to my children each year.
I have found the results to be generally accurate based on my own observations and testing. I never do test prep. They are never stressed out over taking the tests. So far, they score in the 95th+ percentiles.

“I was merely pointing out that many middle school students don’t put forth 100% effort if they know it won’t affect their grade.”

Well, perhaps they are right. They understand the value of hard work. The school is asking them to do work for which there is no personal reward (or punishment). I would ditch outside testing altogether and let parents arrange and pay for it themselves if they deem it beneficial. Home schoolers have been doing this for years.
A teacher is evaluated when they are hired. As long as there aren’t numerous documented complaints, they should have pay based on seniority. In-demand subject area teachers should have a higher base salary.

EdDawg

March 28th, 2011
7:09 pm

Amen parent group.

Patricia - 34 year Veteran

March 28th, 2011
10:09 pm

@Schools 21 You have described the exact manner in which I have been evaluated here in Georgia since 2004.

WideAwake

March 29th, 2011
6:43 pm

Teaching begins at home! Not an equation….