Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tests for Pupils, But the Grades Go to Teachers

A NYT article from a couple of weeks ago about

New York City education officials are developing more than a dozen new standardized tests, but in a sign of the times, their main purpose will be to grade teachers, not the students who take them.

Elementary school students would most likely take at least one or two additional tests every year, beginning in the third grade. High school students could take up to eight additional tests a year, and middle school students would also have extra tests. These would be in addition to the state English, math and Regents exams that students already take.

The exams, which would begin rolling out as early as next academic year, are being created as part of a statewide overhaul of how teachers are evaluated. Under a law passed last year that helped the state win $700 million in a federal grant competition, known as Race to the Top, each school district must find a way to evaluate teachers on a scale from "ineffective" to "highly effective," with teachers facing potential firing if they are rated ineffective for two years in a row.

Under the law, 40 percent of a teacher's grade will be based on standardized tests or other "rigorous, comparable" measures of student performance. Half of that should be based on state tests, and half on measures selected by local districts. The remaining 60 percent is to be based on more subjective measures, including principal observations.

…City officials want their tests to be different from the mostly multiple choice tests the state uses. A proposal given to testing companies for bids in April asks that the exams be based around tasks, like asking students to progress through a multistep math problem, modify a science experiment to get a different result, or write a persuasive essay. They should also reflect the more rigorous Common Core academic standards that New York and other states have adopted.

"How do you create an additional assessment that is actually going to strengthen instructional practice, rather than divert time away from instruction?" said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer. "That is what we set out to solve."

Polakow-Suransky emailed me these comments about the article (with permission to share them):


The reason to do this is so we have a valid objective measure of student learning that we can use in teacher evaluations when there are no state exams available to measure growth which is currently the case for many content area subjects outside ELA and Math.


There are a couple errors – we are spending less than 10% of RTTT money on these and Mulgrew is incorrect that they haven't discussed this with us – he's had staff involved all along.


Tests for Pupils, But the Grades Go to Teachers

Published: May 23, 2011 

 Subscribe in a reader