Friday, March 9, 2012

Ohio To Retest Teachers for Low Student Performance

The Beatings Will Continue Until Test Scores Improve
In yet another idiotic attempt to force teachers to make poor kids excel on their exams, Ohio will start requiring teachers of core subjects at the lowest scoring 10% of schools to retake their licensing exams, according to The move seems to be purely punitive, as the licensing exams provide almost useful no data on how well a teacher will perform on the job.

Scores on standardized tests are most strongly influenced by students’ socioeconomic backgrounds, with teachers accounting for as little as 7.5-30% of student achievement. (See here, here and here) Indeed, virtually every one of the schools in questions is located in a low income community.

Yet even if we ignore the socioeconomic factors influencing student achievement, as most politicians, pundits and administrators have done, and focus only on what the teachers contribute, forcing them to retake their licensing tests is still a waste of time and money. If a teacher truly isn’t any good at their job, it is most likely due to weaknesses in classroom management and discipline, developing positive relationships with students, designing good curriculum, or the ability to modify teaching to meet unique student needs, rather than a deficiency in content knowledge.

The teachers’ union has estimated that the testing will cost the state $2.1 million a year, money that would be much more effectively spent on professional development and peer mentoring.

Gov. John Kasich argues that retesting teachers will hold them more accountable and give districts and charter schools the ability to get rid of the ineffective ones. Yet if only teachers at the bottom 10% of schools are tested, then ineffective teachers at the other 90% of schools will remain. More importantly, most low performing schools are also low income, which means that teachers who happen to be at these schools will be much more likely to lose their jobs or face punitive and burdensome testing than their colleagues fortunate enough to work at more affluent schools.

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