Five Tough Questions for the Test Score Crowd
While the battle over teacher seniority continues in the state legislature, one giant question mark remains: What will replace it? We don't actually know, since a statewide teacher evaluation system is still in development and won't go public until after seniority's already faced its vote. The only thing we do know about the statewide evaluation system is that it's required to base at least 35% of a teacher's evaluation on “value-added assessments,” which will most often be translated to mean “test scores.”
In light of this, here are some questions for the people pushing for a heavier weight on test scores.
How do we account for a teacher changing grade levels or classes from one year to the next? Third grade is different from fifth grade, and regular ninth grade English is different from advanced tenth grade English.
What about grades and subjects that aren't tested? We don't test K-2 or twelfth grade at all, and it seems ridiculous to base an eleventh grade social studies teacher's retention on math scores...but the only thing we test in eleventh grade is math.
How do we adjust for students that change classes mid-year? It'll be hard to determine how much of Anthony's tenth grade reading score was due to spending September to January with Ms. Larson and how much was due to spending February to April with Mr. duBois.
And what about student mobility? Attributing Juanita's test scores to the one week she spent in Ms. Acker's class could be good or bad for Ms. Acker (depending on how Juanita did), but it wouldn't reflect much on Ms. Acker's teaching either way.
- Are we talking about mastery or growth? The MCAs right now only measure mastery, which means Will's awesome two years of reading growth in eight months thanks to the hard work of his special education case manager, his English teacher, and his family (not to mention his own effort) will get discounted if he's “only” moved from reading at the fourth grade level to the sixth grade level in eighth grade.
Can these questions be answered? Of course. Have they been answered yet? No. Until we have satisfactory answers to these questions, we shouldn't throw out the system we have for one we don't know.