Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

June 3, 2010

Advantages and pitfalls of educators being evaluated by student test scores

Merit pay based on student test scores


6-1-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Our #Edchat summary this week has been written by another passionate edchatter Adam Burk (@pushingupward). I’m sure you will agree that Adam has done a great job in capturing well what was a very insightful and lively debate. Adam is a great campaigner for reform, not just in education. Read his blogs for more information. Links to these and bio below.

The news is filled with stories about our failing public education system in the United States. Lately, a lot of focus has been put on teachers as a significant cause of the problems in schools. This week #edchat’s focus was on one of the current leading proposals to improve performance in our schools: Accountability of teachers based on their students’ scores on standardized tests. For example, Race to the Top funding is contingent on states breaking through union blocks to create such measures for teacher evaluation. Race to the Top measures are similar to current programs which thus far are failing in Chicago according to preliminary findings. Nonetheless, just like No Child Left Behind was shoved down public school’s throats, here comes more mis-guided reliance on high-stake testing to prove not only students’ ability, but teachers’ as well.

During this #edchat discussion it was made clear that the emphasis on high-stake standardized tests is not welcomed by this group of educational professionals. Potential advantages of said proposal were not clearly identified. It undermines efforts to implement meaningful change in pedagogy to support students to be successful in the information age. Standardized tests are a tool in public education that divorces students from their inherent passion for learning. Schools need to become places that foster passion and creativity both in students and teachers. Current proposals in education reform fail to do this. Innovation in assessment and accountability are needed, this is agreed upon, but what exactly this looks like is not. If tests are to be used, they must learn to share the spotlight with other forms of assessment and feedback. There is support from some for 360 degree reviews where student, peer, parent, and administrator feedback is utilized to comprise a comprehensive review.

But even before we define our evaluation methods we must redefine education in the United States. Even with higher test scores our students and schools will not be meeting the needs and challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s workplace, nor our global situation. Thus, we must align our purpose of education with aiding students to be inspired, sophisticated, thinkers, doers, and citizens, who actually are prepared to meet the challenges that are before them.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:

  • High-stake standardized testing ruins creativity
  • Higher quality means of assessment should be emphasized and fostered instead of standardized tests.
  • Merit Pay based on high-stake standardized testing erodes collaboration in schools and promotes self-interest
  • High-stake standardized testing creates a high risk for increase in cheating
  • Merit pay will create environments where “difficult” or “behind” students are not wanted on a class roster
  • Merit pay is designed for businesses dependent upon sales, not for issues of human development
  • Test scores as one of many pieces of diverse information may be an acceptable means of teacher evaluation
  • If tests are used they should be created by teachers to support their curriculum design and to inform students and teachers of strengths and weaknesses as part of a diverse assessment strategy
  • Fundamental change in our educational paradigm is needed
  • Measuring success by means of test scores is the wrong focus
  • The logistics for implementing teacher evaluation based on student performance on high-stakes standardized tests may be ridiculous
  • Student performance is more complex than teacher performance, e.g., poverty, nutrition, parents
  • Standardized tests are flawed with cultural biases and focus on low-level thinking
  • Standardized tests may persist because they create a safe place where teachers are absolved of responsibility for creating something better
  • To define what good teaching looks like we must first redefine education; otherwise we are bolstering bad habits.

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@MissCheska #edchat I think teaching to the test focuses more on fact-based instruction than a more holistic instruction; it loses sight of bigger pic.

@rkiker #edchat I think the greatest measurement of teacher evaluation are authentic student evaluations/feedback – although they can be dangerous

@GaryBrannigan Meaningful assessment should be built into the instructional process #edchat

@bjnichols Eval. should be tied to real outcomes/growth of students. Not the ability to bubble & answer mult. choice questions #edchat

@k_shelton @techmunoz So a highly tech person like myself would be evaluated by who? And based upon what? #edchat

@tomwhitby Do we now need to give every class in every grade a standardized test so that we may evaluate every teacher? #edchat

@k_shelton It’s not fair to evaluate a teacher’s performance, when you have students that don’t even get breakfast before the school day #edchat

@shighla It’s important for formative assessment to be part of the teaching and learning process.    #edchat

@tucksoon Both teachers and students are judged by standardized tests. Both will lose out in the end. A looping vicious cycle #edchat

@ShellTerrell With high-stakes tests there are already teachers who don’t want to teach the kids that are behind the prob will grow #edchat

@Harmerj Interesting #edchat. problem with performance-related pay is the many many many diff variables u wld have to use to evaluate performance!

@tomwhitby With so much riding on the test, we have shifted the focus from learning to successful test taking. #edchat

@michellek107 Our kids are tested relentlessly. There is no joy in learning. Sad to always hear, “Is this for a grade/on the test?” #edchat

@rliberni I feel we look too much to industry 4 our models shouldn’t we be more creative with our own industry? #edchat

@seanbanville @Harmerj Excellence needs to be determined by the teaching team – vote for whoever contributed most/best  #edchat

@phystweeter Teacher evaluations that I have experienced have not been in depth.  Most evaluators don’t know enough about content to evaluate it. #edchat

@bjnichols Creativity is all about risk taking.  Tying performance to a single measure would greatly diminish creativity in classrooms. #edchat

@datadiva Hammers are used to smash car windows, but no one is clamoring to ban them. We need change how we view tests in their rightful place #edchat

@phystweeter Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I welcome merit pay.  Why shouldn’t those who do more get paid more?  #edchat

@jenclevette Part of my eval is my Prof Growth Plan, which is a living document of what I believe I need to work on.  #edchat

@michellek107 @ShellTerrell eval me on student engagement, continuing prof dev, growth as tchr, effective teaching, leadership opp’s I take. #edchat

@pushingupward @ShellTerrell Motivation should be intrinsic motivation based on passion to learn. Schools annihilate this inherent passion. #edchat

@drtimony @jenclevette responsible educators and analysts should be able to use testing as part of a profile of assessment.  #edchat

@MZimmer557 I will gladly take merit based pay if we create a method of merit based parenting!  #edchat

@PodPirate …unfortunately we need to start offering solid solutions to this problem or somebody else is going to make decisions for us. #edchat

@drtimony Let teachers choose how they are evaluated. Imagine that. Let them set goals and achieve/exceed. Like we should do with kids. #edchat

@rjwassink #edchat My union contract says I get a raise every year… whether I improve or not.  Why???

@tomwhitby The teacher is only one aspect of a student’s learning. How do we test Family, Culture, Environment and Health? Other tests? #edchat

@colport It is interesting how many teachers actually like standardised tests…it appears to be a safety zone for them #edchat

@ladyteachkdg All that really matters is the learning that happens with our students when “the rubber meets the road” in our classrooms #edchat

@Smichael920 If testing does have a place it’s to support & inform teacher assessment not their pay #edchat

@Mamacita Teaching to a test is easy.  Takes no brains, no guts, no creativity, no personality, and no originality.  Just read the script. #edchat

I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

How are public schools aligned or misaligned to develop a citizenry prepared to deal with the issues of today and tomorrow including humanitarian, ecological, economic, and political crises?

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

As ever, there were some great links shared:

JamiePortman:  Tooble is gr8 free software 4 borrowing videos from Youtube. http://bit.ly/bYi5Rh

kevcreutz: Point by point discussion on negative effect of testing http://bit.ly/99N35i

leahmacvie: Choice: School Choice in America – http://tinyurl.com/38ade35

web20education: Share and rt http://www.sharetabs.com/?web20socialmediaeducation Web 2.0 and social media  in  education

datruss: What makes a Great Teacher http://bit.ly/bn9cLX

pushingupward: Consider new standards to redefine school. Fixed process vs. fixed content. http://ow.ly/1SyvD

rushtheiceberg:  Don’t Cripple Kids w/ Compassion!  http://bit.ly/ahr8Y8

datruss: See Dan Pink on Motivation http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc Are good teachers the type to be motivated by merit pay?

Teachers_Speak: If anyone missed the special about education and testing, merit pay- here is link – http://usaguns.net/patriots/minds.html

edudemic: Follow everything happening on today’s #edchat discussion with our LIVE STREAM page on EduDemic. (Just upgraded!) http://bit.ly/cUg80b

rosamariatorres: (video) Challenging current “common sense” on Merit Pay for Teachers http://bit.ly/4r4R2w

drtimony: absolutely you can. we all break. solution? success. RT @BrandiJClark: Can you fix broken teachers? http://bit.ly/aiSXMr

PodPirate: @debra47 http://tinyurl.com/2ef5eeo here you go

tomwhitby: This is the latest Post from Sean Banville. I enjoyed this and recommend it. http://bit.ly/b0dk5G

rachelala: for deep thinking and understanding of formative assessment see Dylan Wiliam’s work http://bit.ly/cWUxu3

ransomtech: Would u agree 2 transfer 2 a struggling middle school 4 2 years in exchange 4 a $20,000 bonus? http://bit.ly/aPTGqw

CrudBasher: My #edchat contribution: How Do We Evaluate Teachers? http://bit.ly/cpLqhb

tomwhitby: I’ve noticed when I recommend posts from others everyone follows.When I do my own-Zippo . Digital Pointers? http://bit.ly/86CKmb

Adam Burk can only be defined as one thing for sure, a human being. Bound by this condition he does the best he can to learn, grow, play, do good, and be of service. He believes we are largely looking the wrong way in our discussions in education reform. Ultimately, we must be talking about cultural reform, developing profoundly sane personalities for planetary citizenship. This looks like individuals contributing to the aims of The Earth Charter and is the enactment of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic.

While his activities are many–philosopher, wilderness guide, teacher, social worker, gardener, husband, dog whisperer, naturalist, cook, jewelry maker, lover, healer, writer, community activist, change agent, and more–he is guided by the simple principle to do good in the service of others. He lives on the beautiful coast of Maine. Adam blogs at Pushing Upward: Growing a Culture of Peace and Cooperative Catalyst. He can be reached at pushingupward@gmail.com and found on twitter as @pushingupward.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think? Leave a comment!



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell and Andrew Barras, Martin Swanhall. Martin Swanhall said: RT @ShellTerrell: Advantages and pitfalls of educators being evaluated by student test scores http://bit.ly/bqnq6r #edchat […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Advantages and pitfalls of educators being evaluated by student test scores « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language -- Topsy.com — June 3, 2010 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  2. […] Advantages and pitfalls of educators being evaluated by student … consider, great, new-standards, Web […]

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