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Performance Test

Tingley-021 color-1 A band director I once worked with said, “I honestly don’t know why regular teachers object to making their test scores public.  Every time I give a concert or parade, it’s a test.  And everybody in town can see how I’m doing.”

“Well,” I countered, “there is the Music Man effect.”  We often joked about the “Music Man” theory I trotted out whenever the director fretted about the band’s readiness to perform.  I reminded him of the ending of The Music Man, when Professor Harold Hill is finally forced to demonstrate how well his band can play using the “think method.”  His foes believe he will finally be revealed for the fraud he is.  What happens, however, is that everybody in town – parents and relatives in particular – is captivated by the fact that their children are performing, no matter how terrible it sounds.  Parental pride makes the music sweet.

I’ve seen that same audience reaction at dreadful dance recitals, losing swim meets, and lopsided softball games.  Parents are still proud of their kids, even when the performance isn’t stellar.

The band director laughed, but insisted that he had a point. If the band was awful that year (or any year), there was no way to hide it. And if it had a two-year awful streak, the board of education would hear about it.  The Music Man analogy only went so far.  Every performance was a test and feedback was instantaneous.  “It’s the same with art,” the band director said.  “The art teacher has to have an art show. The choir has to sing.  Even the physical education teacher has the Presidential Physical Fitness test.  He’s got to show some progress.”

“Then there are coaches, ” he added.  “If you can’t win, you don’t get to continue on as coach.  So the academic teachers have to reveal Musicman08
their test scores?  Big deal.  And by the way, special area teachers have everybody in their classes  -- just like regular teachers.”

I thought about our ongoing conversation the other day as I was reading about the many school districts currently wrestling with how to actually include student outcomes in teacher evaluations.  It was one thing to promise to do so to qualify for Race to the Top funds; it’s another thing entirely to try to implement.

Problems in implementation abound, some of them real and some of them simply political.  Which tests should be used?  How do we include all teachers?  What about principals?  What percentage of a teacher’s evaluation should be student outcomes?  Will administrators “fudge” observations so that teachers with poor outcomes look better?  Is it “fair” that some teachers don’t have standardized or state tests for their areas of instruction?

The devil is certainly in the details, and call me cynical, but I suspect that in the end some forms of implementation will be so unwieldy as to compromise the initiative.  The simpler, the better, I say, especially at the beginning.  We don’t have to solve all the problems at once.  And the band director had a point:  we don’t test kids the same way in every subject, so why would we test their teachers the same way? 

Being responsible for the outcomes you’re paid to deliver is not unreasonable.  I’m hoping we don’t make it harder than it needs to be, and that districts remember the poster I often see in the offices of school psychologists or guidance counselors:  “Treating people fairly doesn’t always mean treating people the same.”

 

Comments

Test is everywhere. What we do there's always a test. This test makes us a better person. Agree?

Thank you for sharing this one. I know for a fact that physical fitness or corporate fitness is needed.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.