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Friday, June 17, 2011

Stunning news!

A blue ribbon committee of the National Academies National Research Council undertook a decade long study.  The committee wanted to see if the test-based incentive system really improved learning.  Just shocking results!! The testing system has had little to now impact on student learning and in some cases RAN COUNTER to the intended purpose.  Anyone who has ever been in a classroom would know that tests do not measure much learning and they are not an incentive for learning.  Perhaps for some students they are an incentive for memorization but memorization has never been equal to learning.
In Baltimore recently, a new union contract tied pay to merit for teachers.  I am all for tying pay to merit rather than just living and breathing and staying another year on the job.  The problem I have with the contract is that merit is defined as test scores.
First of all test scores do not measure learning.  Now that a special committee has agreed, maybe someone will hear that.  Test scores make us feel comfortable because they give us a number and we all like numbers but they do not measure learning.
Secondly, if a teacher's salary is tied to test scores everyone will want to teach the kids who are good test takers.  This isn't necessarily even the smartest kids, just the ones who test well.  Who will be left to teach the most challenged learners, the ones who need good teaching most.
Thirdly, if salaries are going to be all about test scores, who will be left to teach the poor test takers and the kids who need to learn how to think.  Where will teachers go if they want to teach in an exciting project based manner.

The big question is, how many kids and teachers be hurt before we realize how wrong headed this approach is?