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More Light, Less Heat

In what the media is calling “the war” between the LA Times and the teachers’ union over publishing teachers’ test scores, where are the students and their parents?

We've all heard the arguments on both sides.  But here’s what I’m wondering:  As a parent, wouldn’t you want to know how your kid’s teacher prepares kids for tests?  If your child were assigned to a teacher with a history of low test scores, wouldn’t you want to know that?  I have to say, I think I would want that information.

Now, we all know there could be lots of reasons for poor test scores – disruptive students, transient  Test scores  students, poor attendance, overcrowding, etc. etc.  And maybe my child loves her teacher whether that teacher’s scores are outstanding, average, or poor.  Maybe her teacher is kind and imaginative and has made my child feel really good about herself.  But I guess I’d still like to be reassured that compared with the results of other teachers at the same grade level, my child’s teacher is doing the same good job.

I would also guess that any LA teacher who has kids in school might like to have that information as well.  All things being equal, do you want your child in a classroom of kids who make good progress every year or in a classroom of kids who make 4 months’ progress in 10 months’ time?  I know it’s only one measure – but wouldn’t you, as a parent, want to know?

Of course, if you’re a teacher in the system, you might already know who’s good and who’s mediocre.  You might even be able to influence, formally or informally, where your child is placed.  Shouldn’t all parents be able to make the same choices based on similar information?

So I guess if the majority of parents say the Times really shouldn’t publish teachers' test scores, I’d be surprised.  And worried.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Suzanne,

You argue that "there could be lots of reasons for poor test scores" in one sentence and then a couple of sentences later totally contradict yourself when you say, "But I guess I’d still like to be reassured that compared with the results of other teachers at the same grade level, my child’s teacher is doing the same good job."

You know full well that teachers next door to each other will have classes that are different enough to make test score comparisons unreliable. You know that test scores measure mostly test taking skills, not actual, important learning. You know that test scores cannot tell us the quality of the teacher.

Finally, you end with the idea that the majority opinion of parents should dictate policy. Educational decisions of this magnitude need to be made by professionals backed by complete research. The LA Times does not cut it as they have one motivation with publishing teacher names: make more money.

Please rethink your position about publishing test results attached to teacher names in the fashion. I think you will find that the damage done (read many articles and comments referring to damage to school culture, teacher morale, cheating to avoid the newspaper, etc) far out weighs any gains.

Thank you.

I agree that comparing teachers’ test scores after only one year gives us unreliable data, but the LA Times used data from 7 years of testing. Each teacher had to have taught at least 60 students during that time.

Test results, as I noted, are only one measure, but it’s the only data available to parents (I doubt that teachers’ classroom evaluations will be printed in the Times as well).

To be perfectly candid, I don’t know what effect publishing test scores will have on teacher morale, school culture, etc. There are lots of opinions, but no one knows for sure. Maybe things will improve. Maybe not.

Finally, I’m not sure where you got the idea that I think parents should dictate policy (seems like a big leap from just knowing teachers’ test scores). But I still maintain that teachers (and even administrators) may not want their own personal children to spend a year with a teacher with poor test scores even when you know it’s only one measure.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful comments. And I am still rethinking my position on this as new information becomes available.

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