Sunday, February 26, 2012

Testing the Testing

As a consequence of its teacher "accountability" initiatives, New York City has released performance reports on each teacher in the system.

However, as The Call has pointed out, these reports are not exactly the most exacting:
The Teacher Data Reports were compiled for three school years between 2007 and 2010, and were never meant to be made public, although the DOE used them as a tool to make tenure decisions. The data are supposed to reflect a teacher’s ability to affect fourth through eighth grade students’ progress on standardized tests. But the UFT argues the scores are misleading and based on questionable data. The average margin of error for English teachers is 53 percent, and 35 percent for math. That means a teacher with a score of 50 percent may really have scored anywhere from a 23 percent to a 77 percent. The breakdown compares teachers based on their amount of experience and takes into account gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status - among other things - to try to show how teachers in similar situations are helping students improve.
These huge margins of error would seem to be a big problem for assessing a teacher's competence---assuming that you believe that standardized testing performance is a good vehicle for this assessment (a questionable assumption at best).

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