To the Editor:
Regarding the article “Caution Urged on ‘Value Added’ Reviews” (Oct. 31, 2012): The notion of measuring human beings—their teaching performance, their compassion, their aptitude, or their ability—using test scores derived from computerized or paper-and-pencil tests given to children with different lives, backgrounds, language dominance, economic, or emotional circumstances (who are also human beings) is ludicrous.
Among the infinitely complex questions arising with regard to “value added” evaluations are the following:
• Will physical-fitness tests be used to evaluate gym teachers?
• Will English-proficiency scores be used to evaluate English-as-a-second-language teachers? Or will students’ standardized-test scores be used? Who will be held accountable, the classroom teacher, or the ESL teacher?
• How will K-2 teachers be evaluated? Will the teacher be judged by the percentage of children reaching benchmarks? Which benchmarks? Which assessments?
• How will art, music, and social studies teachers be evaluated? What about library media specialists and high school teachers in nontested subjects or grades? Will these teachers escape scrutiny, or will new tests be hastily invented?
• What about science? In some states, standardized tests are only administered in grades 5 and 8. Will pretest data gathered from tests given to students in grade 5 be used to rate grade 8 science teachers? Who will be held accountable? Such tests measure cumulative knowledge gained over several years. What about student mobility?
• How will special education teachers be evaluated? Will the special education or the general education teacher be held accountable for growth when students receive a major portion of their instruction through inclusion or resource services? Will attainment of individualized-education-program goals be used, or standardized-test scores? What about those who teach children whose disabilities mean their academic growth cannot be measured on existing standardized instruments?
It is time for Americans to rise up and shout in unison, “The emperor has no clothes!”
Ann Evans de Bernard
Bridgeport Public Schools
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2012 edition of Education Week as ‘Value Added’ Evaluations Raise Complex Issues