The Los Angeles Times recently launched a series called “Grading the Teachers” that compiled the standardized test results of students and analyzed them to see which teachers’ tests scores continuously raised.
The publication then ranked 6,000 third and fourth grade teachers on their scores.
Although the Times feels it is a newsworthy series, many say that it is unfair for teachers as well as students.
Every year, America’s public schools administer more than 100 million standardized exams.
These exams are used to test the performance of students in various subjects such as English, math and reading comprehension.
The results are used to rate schools and to grade the performance of teachers.
Although the exams have been used for the past 45 years, the point has been missed.
Tests created to ensure that students were being taught relevant and useful information have become an end of the year chore of number two pencils and demands to scribble in the circles correctly.
For teachers these tests not only cause stress but places them in a situation where they can either choose to teach the curriculum they feel their students need, or teach students information that applies to standardized testing.
Maria Fusaro, a doctoral student in human development and psychology, said the problem is that we overestimate what tests can do.
Tests are not designed to summarize all that students and schools can do.
“Grading the Teachers” shines a negative light on the men and women who teach students in areas where there is little funding and little support.
Many argue that standardized tests are biased against low-income students and minorities, placing them at a disadvantage compared to more privileged students.
So the teachers whose students are mainly minorities and live in low income areas are being presented as bad teachers.
The series discredits teachers and presents a one-sided view about the effectiveness of teachers, leaving many important factors out.
The series never mentioned the growth of students in comparison to their previous year’s scores.
Standardized tests are an easy way to look at a student’s growth, but they are not the definitive way to evaluate students, and they are not the only way to rank teachers.
Alternatives include criterion-referenced tests, teacher-made tests, contract grading, interviews with students and their parents and detailed documentation of a student’s accomplishments, according to Barbara Wildemuth author of “Alternatives to Standardized Tests.”
Instead of criticizing and ranking teachers using numbers from standardized testing, the Los Angeles Times should have considered shining a light on the flawed testing system.
Also they should have presented research on alternatives that would allow schools and teachers to be more effective.
Results from a fill in the bubble test should not be the central criteria for determining a teacher’s capabilities or a student’s ability to succeed in the classroom.