Teaching Profession

Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Testing

By Anthony Rebora — March 27, 2012 4 min read

Most teachers do not believe standardized tests have significant value as measures of student performance, according to a new report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The report, based on a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers, finds that only 28 percent of educators see state-required standardized tests as an essential or very important gauge of student achievement. In addition, only 26 percent of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know.

One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey’s findings: Only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them.

Overall, according to the report, teachers see ongoing formative assessments, class participation, and performance on class assignments as much more important measures of student learning. At the same time, most teachers (85 percent) agree that their students’ growth over the course of the year should contribute significantly to evaluations of their own performance.

The report, titled “Primary Sources: 2012: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession,” was released March 16 at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City, where a frequent focus of discussion—and attendees’ ire—was New York state’s recent decision to release value-added ratings of teachers based on standardized-test scores.

At a panel discussion on the Scholastic-Gates report, Margery Mayer, the president of Scholastic Education, said the findings speak to the need to use multiple measures to evaluate teachers’ impact on student learning. And Gates Foundation President Allan Golston reiterated his organization’s opposition to the public release of the value-added ratings, saying it was “counterproductive” in terms of conducting meaningful evaluations of teachers. The Gates Foundation’s position, especially in connection with the findings in the report, is significant because the organization has widely been perceived as an influential proponent of increasing the use of standardized-test scores in evaluations. (The foundation helps support coverage of business and innovation in Education Week.)

K-12 educators on the panel emphasized what they said were the limits of standardized tests in their current configuration, saying such assessments are not well-matched to contemporary teaching and learning goals. “How can you get critical thinking into a bubble?,” asked Cate Dossetti, a teacher at Fresno High School in Fresno, Calif.

Naima Lilly, a 5th grade teacher in Queens Village, N.Y., said that standardized tests are also at cross-purposes with the principles of differentiated instruction.

Teacher-effectiveness authority Charlotte Danielson added that “not a single one of the 21st-century skills can be assessed on a multiple-choice test.” She said that the appeal of standardized-test scores is that they “give you a number,” but that teaching is too complex to be captured in that way. Ms. Danielson and other panelists suggested, however, that the Common Core State Standards, adopted by all but four states, may present an opportunity to develop more nuanced types of assessment.

Still, the use of standardized-test scores has its supporters. Many policymakers believe that value-added analysis of those scores offers a critical window on individual teachers’ effectiveness, a position that some research at least tentatively supports.

Other Findings

Beyond the findings on standardized testing, the Scholastic-Gates report compiles a wide range of data on teachers’ views on pressing issues in education. Among some of the other notable findings:

• Teachers rank family involvement, high expectations for students, and effective school leadership as having the highest potential impact on improving student achievement.

• Most teachers in states that have adopted the common core have heard of the standards, but less than a quarter of affected teachers feel they are “very prepared” to teach them.

• Teachers generally believe they should be evaluated and observed, through a variety of methods, more often than they are now.

• Large majorities of teachers also favor tying tenure decisions to evaluations of teachers’ effectiveness and having tenure status reassessed at regular intervals.

• Only 63 percent of teachers believe their students will leave school prepared for college, while many veteran teachers say more are struggling in reading and math.

• Veteran teachers also say they are seeing growing numbers of students struggling with poverty, hunger, and behavioral issues.

Despite the challenges they face, the report says, teachers tend to be content in their jobs, with 42 percent saying they are “very satisfied” and another 47 percent saying they are “satisfied.” A recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that 44 percent were very satisfied with their jobs, but noted that proportion was a 15 percent decline from two years ago.

A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2012 edition of Education Week as Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Testing

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion I've Studied Teachers for 20 Years. The Pandemic Was Their Ultimate Challenge
Researcher Lora Bartlett wondered what was happening behind the scenes as teachers' cheerful voices radiated from her daughters' computers.
Lora Bartlett
4 min read
Opinion Bartlett1 KNOW THYSELF LINCOLN
Lincoln Agnew for Education Week
Teaching Profession Q&A Teachers' Union President: Say 'No to Censorship, and Yes to Teaching the Truth'
National Education Association President Becky Pringle discusses some of the challenges and priorities for the nation's largest teachers' union.
8 min read
National Education Association President Becky Pringle delivers a keynote address.
National Education Association President Becky Pringle delivers a keynote address at the union's representative assembly in early July.
Moses Mitchell/National Education Association
Teaching Profession Opinion How to Improve Teaching After the Pandemic
Figuring out how to let individual teachers do more of what they’re already good at is a powerful place to start the improvement process.
4 min read
Conceptual image of finding finding a different approach or path.
Eoneren/E+
Teaching Profession Teachers' Unions Vow to Defend Members in Critical Race Theory Fight
The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are preparing for litigation as states restrict teaching about racism.
7 min read
In this photo illustration, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, left, and Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, right.
In this photo illustration, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, left, and Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, right.
Courtesy photos