Tribune flunks the teacher evaluation essay question

The Tribune is once more on the attack against teachers, writing this editorial pushing for a teacher evaluation system built primarily on student test scores. It took me a while to finish the following letter to the editor because I was so busy going through my thesaurus looking for less inflammatory synonyms for “ignorant.”

Here’s what I just sent them (though don’t expect to see it in print – they rarely allow that):

“Like a bad teacher, the Tribune is once more mis-educating its readers about the value of student standardized test scores. Your editorial, ‘Student growth should be the most significant factor in evaluations,’ improperly urges use of this data as the major factor in teacher ratings and pay.

“Like an underachieving student, you clearly did not do your homework, or you      would have learned that such a system is considered ‘potentially damaging’ by the nation’s premier scientific research body, the National Academy of Sciences, and ‘unwise by the Economic Policy Institute.

“An attentive parent can see through your rhetoric. Simply calling the use of a higher percentage of standardized tests scores a ‘higher standard’ is not convincing. Implying that the use of a lower ‘standard’ – such as the 5% to 25% range recommended by educators and researchers – is ‘rolling the dice’ or ‘paltry’ is irrational. Suggesting that a valid reason for creating an unfair, unscientific system is that ‘many teachers stand to gain’ is repugnant.

“Our evaluation of your essay? 0%.”

More on this issue from the Parents Across America fact sheet, “Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn’t Work”: The  National Academy of Sciences and experts assembled by the Economic Policy Institute have warned of the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems or merit pay based on test scores.”

Here’s a direct quote from the NAS: “Too little research has been done on these methods’ validity to base high-stakes decisions about teachers on them.”

And from the EPI: 

A review of the technical evidence leads us to conclude that, although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation. Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise. Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning.


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.