Grading Teachers by Student Scores is Stressful, Unfair

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The fate of your teachers will soon be in your hands.

In response to a federal mandate tied to acceptance of Race to The Top funds, the state of Ohio has mandated that beginning next year,  half of teachers’ performance reviews be based on students’ scores on state tests that have yet to be determined. This resembles the policy that caused Chicago teachers to strike earlier this month.

English teacher Jewel Reid said she believes teachers should be able to focus on teaching skills that are more applicable to life. She said, “Teachers should teach a wider range” than is covered in a state test.

The policy supposedly encourages teachers and students to work together to improve test scores. IB Coordinator Tim Mitchell believes the policy pushes teachers to help students improve their test scores, but that not every student cares enough to take the time required to improve them. These students can make or break a test-based performance review. “Incrementally, teachers can offer encouragement and support, but it doesn’t completely affect test scores,” Mitchell said.

Requiring teacher evaluation through student test performance suggests that all sections of a particular class must be standardized. But standardizing courses is detrimental to students because it takes away the individualized the learning experience and forces teachers to focus on teaching to a test. This approach takes away the incentive to moderate class discussions and promotes use of review packets and memorization of facts. Students look forward to days when they aren’t subject to lectures period after period. A Socratic seminar, student presentation or video offers valuable variety throughout the day. Without the monotony of test prep every day, students could focus more clearly and learn more. Diverse class activities would improve grades and test scores more than a standardized curriculum.

Shaker already spends enough time trying to bring up test scores to meet government standards. This policy change is another attempt to raise scores, but this time it is enforced by the state. It is not fair for teachers to lose time for their specialized curriculum in favor of test prep. It’s also an unnecessary load of pressure on students, knowing that their scores won’t just affect their futures, but will also affect their teachers’ careers. Reid said, “Test scores are not the teachers’ fault; [scores depend on] how much time and effort the student puts in.”

 A version of this article appeared in print on 3 October 2012, on page 4 of The Shakerite.

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