Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tying Student Scores to Individual Teacher Performance Hinders Collaboration and School Success

I've been reading the news.  I've been listening to the fact that school funding is tied in part to rating individual teachers by students' scores.  I can't believe it.

Latest research points to the advantages of collaboration.  Rating individual teachers by students' scores hinders collaboration.  Rating individual teachers by students' scores sends the message that one teacher affects a student's performance, rather than the reality that the entire school (and family) community contributes to a child's success and challenge.  During a child's year at school, he/she is affected by the leadership, administrative staff, therapists, special educators, ELL teachers, classroom teachers, recess and cafeteria staff, teaching assistants, specialist teachers and others.

I actually enjoy getting scores.  I see it as part of the whole when it comes to evaluating my work with students and students' progress.  I analyze the scores and respond by tweaking areas I hope to enhance and researching questions I'm left with.  I see the scores as part of the entire child profile; one glimpse into the child's academic performance.  We will also use the scores as a team this year--analyzing the numbers together to organize our collaborative teaching approach to best support all learners.

I continue to be a fan of streamlined academic testing as one vehicle for analyzing and informing instruction with optimal student growth as the focus.  I believe the Federal and state governments should use scores as one measure to analyze school systems--which school systems are performing well, and which ones struggle.  Then, they can use those scores to determine what separates high performance districts and low performing districts.  Once they distinguish the factors, they can work to provide conditions for excellence in every school district--to level the playing field as some suggest.

I can imagine that "leveling the playing field" would include actions like these:
  • Developing better technology infrastructures and student access.
  • Building optimal playgrounds and structures for student play.
  • Creating multi-mile "safe zones" around schools that are plagued by violence and despair.
  • Restructuring the day and increasing staff to support students who require greater care with respect to basic needs such as food, clothing, the opportunity to talk, health and comfort.
  • Increasing salaries so that it's advantageous to lead or teach in challenged schools.
  • Updating buildings and brightening structures.
  • Providing social support systems with sufficient guidance, social workers and community /health services.
  • Time for optimal professional development.
  • Business-university-college school partnerships.
  • After school enrichment opportunities including sports, arts and academic clubs.
  • Homework clubs and mentors.
  • Internships.
The Federal government and states should identify exemplar school systems, and responsively replicate the notable infrastructure, supports and opportunities in systems that face challenge and need.

As far as students' scores and individual teachers, those scores should be used to inform instruction and professional development as well as to strengthen the research-based collaborative efforts at the school/district level.  

Too much potential is wasted on debating issues and practices that do not promote optimal academic opportunity for all students.  Identifying and replicating conditions for excellence in every school in America should be the focus of the Federal and state governments.