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Friday, April 14, 2006



What I really liked about this paper is that the authors seemed to clearly understand the ways in which current teacher assessment is inaccurate and can lead to undesirable outcomes. For example, they suggest controlling teacher "scores" for the incoming achievement levels of the students, so as to avoid a situation in which teachers concerned for their future careers attempt to avoid disadvantaged and special needs kids. I wish someone had thought of this when implementing NCLB, since entire schools are penalized and can even lose funding for factors beyond their control. I know that when I was growing up, each year brought a huge shift in the population at my school - a turnover rate of one third every single year. The school had no control over what those students had learned or retained from previous schooling, nor over their level of English proficiency when they first arrived. But under the current system, a child can have his first day of school on Tuesday and then his scores from Thursday's standardized test can affect the school's performance.

There also aren't allowances for kids who've been seriously ill, or who have had family upheavals such as homelessness or losing a parent. All of these things can depress academic performance. I don't know how one would go about designing a formula to factor all of this into a teacher's scores when evaluating effectiveness, but without accounting for these factors, it's impossible to understand how well a professional is actually doing.

It's ironic that, at the very same time that we're pushing for greater inclusion of students with developmental and learning issues, we are putting pressure on teachers and schools to keep everyone's performance uniformly high. It just doesn't reflect reality.

I think successful teaching can and should be measured - there just needs to be greater thought put into how it can be measured, to avoid penalizing people who work with the toughest cases.

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