Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The New Teacher Evaluations Are Gonna Be A Problem

When Prima was in kindergarten, she had a lot of homework. I hated it. Sometimes, it took her an hour or more to complete. That's not good for six year olds. They need to play. After a day of having little to no self-directed play time, the last thing they need is more adult-directed instruction.

I still firmly believe that, but now that Terza is in kindergarten I have a more nuanced view of the after-school lives on elementary schoolers. There is room for structured instruction and activities like sports, music, cooking, etc. as long as there's also still plenty of room for free play.

Terza has no homework, except for the monthly calendar with an assortment of activities like count the number of steps from your kitchen to your bedroom and list five words that rhyme with cat. She gets a Pizza Hut coupon for completing it. (Not a fan of that, BTW.) I found myself thinking that Terza could be use some more support at home in learning to read, beyond just reading to her. I remembered that part of Prima's kindergarten homework included memorizing sight words; her teacher sent home flashcards. I remembered the drudgery of that.

So, I set about searching Pinterest for better ideas. I found a great sight words kit and assembled one of my own. Last night, as Terza and I made the words she's learning out of pipe cleaners, it hit me, and hit me hard:

Students' state-mandated test scores will be useless in showing which teachers are ineffective.

Throughout the year, kindergarten teachers track the number of sight words students know. When Terza's sight word vocabulary jumps up this quarter, how will anyone be able to attribute that growth solely to her teacher?

Well, that sent me on bit of a Twitter rant. I'm all for professional accountability. Well, I'm all for fair, effective accountability, and Maryland doesn't seem to be going down that road. I'm growing more and more concerned about the proposed teacher evaluation systems. The fact that Superintendents of the best school systems in Maryland are speaking out against the state's plans certainly has something to do with my concern.

And I'm more than a little irritated with elected school board members who signed on to Maryland's Race to the Top application. This isn't a case of hindsight being 20/20. People knew at the time that the RTTT evaluation system requirements were problematic. People spoke out then. Frederick and Montgomery County schools refused to sign. Don't tell me that it didn't matter because Frederick and Montgomery have to do what the state says anyways. They stood up for what is right, consistently. It matters.

Read what Dr. Foose, Dr. Starr, and Dr. Alban have to say about the matter:
Make Teacher Evaluations Fair
Schools Need A Time-Out on Standardized Tests
Teacher Evaluations Should Not Be Tied to MSA Tests

The new teacher evaluations are gonna be a problem because the student test scores will be used to judge things they really can't judge. That's not just bad for teachers, that's bad for kids.

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