Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicago Teachers, Just Say No

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are were very near a deal by the end of last week. Last minute negotiating today, it is hoped, will lead to a compromise that both sides can accept, allowing teachers and students back in the classroom by Monday. The 800 members of the CTU House of Delegates would have to approve the contract and then teachers would have to ratify it.

The details of the proposal have not yet been made public, but speculation by the mainstream press suggest that it will include the use of student test data in teacher evaluations, but these scores will not count as much toward teachers’ overall scores as CPS had hoped. If this is true, then it is a terrible contract and Chicago teachers should just say no to it.

The test scores are an inconsistent and unreliable proxy for teacher quality. They lead to many false positives and false negatives (also see here, for more on the unreliability of Value Added models). Teachers who are doing everything right in the classroom can still have students who do not progress sufficiently in their test scores, which are correlated far more strongly with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds than with their teachers (see herehere and here). Furthermore, any use of test scores to evaluate teachers will encourage teaching to the test, while also giving tacit approval to the state’s wrongheaded mania for testing.

For all of these reasons, teachers unions across the nation must oppose the use of high stakes tests, period. They are virtually worthless as a tool for assessing teachers and they are destructive of the learning process for children.

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