- Lawmakers in both houses of the New York legislature have introduced bills that would prohibit the requirement that students' scores on standardized tests be used in teacher assessments and tenure decisions, WGRZ reports.
- The proposal has support on both sides of the political aisle and has been a goal of the New York State Teachers Union for some time, which factored into the state’s 2015 decision to issue a moratorium on the practice until 2020. The new bill, if passed, would make the prohibition permanent.
- While the union has been pressuring lawmakers for some time and the issue sparked a massive “opt-out” movement among parents in the state, High Achievement New York, a coalition of groups that have supported the state's education standards, indicated that objective measures, such as testing, should be part of a “sensible mix of factors” used in teacher evaluations.
The role student test results should play in teacher evaluation has been a much-debated issue in recent years. There is a clear need to be able to discover which teachers are effective in the classroom if administrators are to assure that students are receiving quality instruction, but the ways to judge this effectiveness have been questioned. Some critics of the emphasis on using student test results in teacher evaluation feel that this method encourages abuse of the system, discourages innovation, and ultimately damages the educational process.
Test scores alone relay very little information about teacher effectiveness, but growth measures reflected on tests are much more telling. That approach doesn't hold teachers responsible for where a student is when he or she comes into the classroom, but how much they learn while they are there. Some educators say that relying on student test scores and proficiency levels to make teacher and principal determinations also discourages good educators from working with the low-performing students who need effective educators most.
Experts say multiple measures should be considered in teacher evaluations in order to paint a well-rounded picture of effectiveness. In a review of a three-year study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers concluded that “when combined with test scores and observations, student surveys made for a more reliable and consistent way to measure how teachers were performing.” AdvanceEd recommends other factors as well, including parent surveys, teacher self-assessments, and teacher portfolios. Though inclusion of some of these elements may be more time consuming than simply drawing conclusions from data, they are likely to be more fair and accurate in the long run.