Home > Education "reform", Truthiness > Live by the test, die by the test

Live by the test, die by the test

The education “reform” crowd likes to put all its chips on teacher accountability, defined variously as linked to students’ scores on some standardized test. Except when an agreed-to evaluation process results in a low rating for the kind of person they seem to think must be a good teacher.

Journalists often fall for it, especially when the low-rated teacher is likely to attract sympathy from their readers/listeners/viewers.  For a recent example, we need only look back to a March 6 report in the NY Times, which suggested the evaluation process must be at fault.

Thanks to The Monkey Cage, we meet a 7th-grade English and social studies teacher at a selective-admissions junior high in Manhattan. “No one works harder,” the Times reporter assures us, adding that she gets raves from her principal and former students. He can’t understand how she gets low ratings when 65 of her 66 students scored proficient on the state test.

Cage’s Andrew Gelman explains it to him:  “[I]seems pretty clear to me. A ‘3’ is a passing grade, but if you’re teaching in a school with ‘selective admissions’ with the particular mix of kids that this teacher has, the expectation is that most of your students will get ‘4’s.”

The evaluation looks at where a teacher’s students were at the start of the year, how far they should be expected to progress, and what they actually achieved. Even with 32 variables, the process probably oversimplifies what it’s trying to measure, argues Mark at Observational Epidemiology. And if the process occasionally penalizes “good” teachers with poor ratings, that’s what critics warned was likely to happen if the NYC “reform” crowd rushed into evaluation.

That doesn’t spare the reporter from some harsh words:

Education journalists often portray ordinary excellence as something exceptional. This is partly due to journalistic laziness — it’s easier to describe something as exceptional than to find something that actually is exceptional — and partly due to the appeal of standard narratives….

Bill Sez: Standard narratives are just another form of truthiness. If it feels so right, how can it be wrong?

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: