SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Test scores do not identify the strong from the weak

Commentary by Robert Bartron
Candidate for District 6 representative to the SCUSD School Board

The key to improving students’ performance is to empower and improve teacher performance. But what is the best way to measure teacher effectiveness?

Student standardized test scores are totally insufficient in measuring teacher performance. Despite what some individuals profess, not every student has the same intelligence, organized study habits, parental support, conceptualization abilities, maturity, and academic orientation as every other student. Teachers do not select their own students, so the best teacher in the world could have a class with lower standardized test scores than a poor teacher who happened to be assigned a class with students who have great test taking abilities.

The value of standardized tests is in establishing expectations of student performance. There is a certain set of facts and abilities that every student must master to be successful in society. Opportunities for success are not going to be different for the poor student than they are for the successful student. We cannot graduate students merely because “they tried hard.” They must meet standards by mastering the reading, writing, math and social skills necessary to be successful in society. No graduate can keep a job because he/she “tries hard” at work. Standards of performance must be met to be successful in our global economy. Standardized test results are a good tool in advising students on their progress in attaining the skill set necessary for success. There are other indicators as well, but testing is a prime resource in advising an individual student on his/her progress.

However, standardized tests, in and of themselves, are not good measures of the quality of instruction provided by teachers. A proper evaluation of a teacher’s performance examines the following areas:

1. Preparation. Has a teacher an annual plan for what the students will master? Is this plan evidenced by daily, detailed lesson plans that comply with basic state standards? Or does the teacher, no matter how many times they have taught the subject, just “wing it” on many days? Does the teacher weekly evaluate the progress on this plan and alter it accordingly after reviewing results to date? Has the students’ previous homework been carefully and promptly graded and is it ready to be given back?

2. Subject expertise. Has the teacher mastered the subject matter to such a degree that he/she can identify the important from the trivial? Does the teacher have a passion for the subject that is reflected in the creativity and completeness in the manner in which it is shared with the students?

3. Presentation. Is the teacher organized and logical in the presentation of material? Does the teacher involve students in the learning process? Does the teacher use different techniques in teaching that recognizes that not every student learns the same way?

4. Classroom environment. Are students energized when they enter the classroom? Do they anticipate another opportunity to excel and receive positive feedback for their efforts? Is the classroom orderly, or does the teacher fail to command the respect of the students?

5. Professional development. Is the teacher excited about sharing knowledge and helping students grow individually? Or is the teacher going through the motions, having lost the passion for teaching? Does the teacher seek to continually improve his/her professionalism in teaching? Does he/she seek better ways to improve the learning by the students? Or is the teacher happy to accept the status quo? Is the teacher inspired or burnt out?

Test scores do not identify the strong teachers from the weak. The only way to answer the teacher quality questions posed above is to observe the teacher in action. Principals are not there to be administrators. Principals need to be leaders. Leaders know their people so well they can help find ways for them to continually improve. Leaders inspire their team to do more in order to achieve more. Leaders are closely involved in the development of individuals under their direction. Regular classroom evaluations—scheduled and unannounced—is the only true way to help teachers improve. The purpose of the visits is to encourage those doing it right and offer training options for those that need improvement. Bad administrators use evaluations as the first step of due process to fire a teacher. Leaders use evaluations as the first step in giving one-on-one assistance to teachers who need it. Any principal who cannot motivate, inspire and positively direct a teacher to success has failed in his/her leadership assignment. Any time a principal moves to terminate a teacher, it is clear reflection of the principal’s failure as a leader to help his/her teachers achieve excellence.

Tests don’t take the measure of good teachers. Leaders do this through supportive accountability of classroom performance by teachers. This is only possible if the principal knows what is going on in the classroom and has a plan to improve outcomes.

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Written by scusdobserver

August 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

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