Test scores don't tell the whole story.
Although teachers should be held accountable for the achievement of their students, standardized tests are not the way to do so. There are many reasons why standardized test scores should not be linked back to individual teachers. The time of year tests are given and student attitudes towards testing, as well as other factors, support the idea that tests should not be linked to teachers.
First, we must look at the nature of standardized tests. Universities instruct teacher candidates to look at students as individuals. They push differentiated instruction and multiple intelligences. Upon graduation, these teachers move into careers and utilize this knowledge with students. Standardized tests do not support these methods of teaching. They are "one size fits all" tests that measure knowledge of a standard or benchmark, but do not take into account the learning styles of the students taking them.
Equally important to note is the time of year these tests are given. In Michigan, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program standardized tests are given in the fall. This assesses the knowledge of students from the previous year and would need to be linked back to the previous teacher. If teachers have changed jobs, left the profession, or taken leave, they may not be available to be accountable for the test scores. Giving a test in the fall also does not allow for students to familiarize themselves with the teacher or their methods before something that has so much bearing on the school and the teacher is presented. Administering the test in the spring to assess the knowledge of the current school year would be much more beneficial in linking scores to the teacher.
Another factor in linking test scores to teachers is student attitude towards testing. Let’s face it; most students do not enjoy taking tests of any kind. This being said, teachers are already at a disadvantage because they need to give the standardized test in the first place. Students know that while the scores matter in terms of school achievement, scores are not linked to their classroom grades and therefore may not try as hard on the test. As teachers we can motivate our students, instruct them using the best methods and prepare them as much as possible, but ultimately we have no control over what they choose to do on a test.
We also must take into consideration the environment each student is coming from on the day of the test. With such a small window given to test, there’s not much we can do if a student has had a rough morning, not eaten breakfast, missed medication or any other number of things that a student could be dealing with.
Finally, we must look at a number of other aspects when considering linking test scores to individual teachers. How long has the teacher been in that position? What type of support is offered by the administration? What type of preparation is offered to those teachers who administer the test? Are there any other student situations that are being dealt with in the classroom? The environment the teacher is instructing in and the amount of support they are offered can have a great effect on the students that they teach.
Rather than solely using test scores to assess teachers, school administration should be using a variety of factors. We would never give a student a report card grade based on one test, so why should the same be done for teachers?
Teaching institutions should also be assessed using a variety of factors, including grade point averages of pre-service teachers, portfolios, student teaching success and success of teachers while holding a provisional teaching certificate. Teaching institutions as well as teachers should be assessed on a regular basis, and the best way to do so is by school administration using a variety of factors. If test scores were to be used in any way, many changes would need to occur with the testing process as well as the tests themselves.
Brianne Pedini is a sixth grade teacher at Trillium Academy in Taylor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in special education, both from Wayne State University.