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January 17, 2012


Why not use value-added to help identify the most effective teachers that bring shy children out of their shells, or teach children with difficulty getting along with others to flourish in a social environment or organize amazing enrichment activities, etc --- the kinds of things that don't necessarily show up in test scores and are especially important in the elementary school grades? The focus on the test will drive teachers away from doing the kinds of things with children that are as important as test results. I speak from 35 years experience and even I am surprised when former students with children of their own recall the things that really made a difference for them.

While I completely agree with all the problems inherent to the value-added method, especially when used at an individual teacher level (where the data becomes much more incoherent than at the district or even school level), isn't this, in some ways, an indictment of the tests we use? If we had more authentic assessments, would we care as much if teachers were "teaching to the test"?

It's pretty easy to cheat on a multiple choice test; it becomes much, much harder, the further away you move from that model.

Better assessments, of course, aren't nearly a complete fix, but I find it interesting to take a look at the other end of the whole test-prep/NCLB/value-added saga, even if only as a mental exercise.

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