We have all had to take some form of standardized test at one point in time, but most people don’t know that some schools use the results of standardized tests to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers. There are many flaws with using student test scores to evaluate teachers, but we can change that system by either getting rid of standardized tests or by changing the way that we evaluate teachers.
In the article “Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers” by Richard J. Shavelson, Robert L. Linn, Eva L. Baker, and others they write, “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.” This means that some teachers could very well lose their jobs just based on how their students score on some meaningless standardized test, a test that only assesses students’ math and reading abilities.
So how are teachers who teach subjects other than math and reading supposed to be evaluated? Are they held to the same test results when they don’t even teach those courses? That doesn’t seem very fair to me.
So how can we trust such tests to evaluate the effectiveness of our teachers if the system itself isn’t effective? Shavelson, Linn, and Baker continue by writing, “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.” The best way to evaluate a teachers’ effectiveness is not by using standardized test scores, because those scores don’t provide an accurate view of how teachers present information to students and the techniques that they use in a classroom.
And not only that, but just because a student scores poorly doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with the teacher’s effectiveness. It may have something to do with outside factors, things in the student’s home life and what they have to worry about, or maybe it has to do with the friends they hang out with. Or better yet maybe it is neither of those things; maybe it’s because they do poorly on any test—not just standardized tests.
Shavelson, Linn, and Baker support this idea: “Student test score gains are also strangely influenced by school attendance and a variety of out-of-school learning experiences at home, with peers, at museums, and libraries, in summer programs, on-line, and in the community.” Yet many students don’t have access to summer programs or don’t get to go to museums because of access and cost. There may be students who are more worried about where their next meal is going to come from or how they are going to survive winter, so school and other enrichment opportunities just aren’t their priority.
So if standardized tests aren’t effective in evaluating a teachers’ effectiveness then what is a better way to evaluate our teachers? In the article “What happened when I stopped test prep and focused on building relationships with my students,” Justin Parmenter writes, “When the individual [standardized test] score reports came back, I experienced the usual roller coaster of emotions—elation over students who showed tremendous progress, disappointment with results that were lower than I knew my students had wanted. It wasn’t until I looked at overall numbers that I could see the real impact of the changes I had made.” Parmenter spent the school year developing relationships with his students by sharing stories about himself and having communications with students who were introverted while also keeping families updated and of course making classes fun and remaining upbeat instead teaching just for the test. While Parmenter still felt a range of emotions over test scores he could see the improvement in the changes that he had made: a nearly 12 percent improvement in the number of students passing the state’s End of Grade reading test.
If there was that much improvement in students’ test scores on just one year based on some small changes then shouldn’t that show that the teacher is effective? While it may show that the teacher is effective it also shows that the teacher knows how to adjust based on his students, and I think that is one of the most important skills that a teacher can have. So teachers focus so much on teaching for the standardized test when that may be the exact opposite of what is going to help their students to succeed.
Naturally administrators want to hire effective teachers,but evaluating those teachers based on test scores isn’t effective. By trying to evaluate teachers through standardized tests we have made them less effective because they are focused on keeping their jobs instead of focused on what is best for their students.