Both Sides of the Scale
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum, or join the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge.
It is often said that teachers teach the way that they themselves were taught. That they should be cognizant of this and filter their teaching practice to exclude ineffective strategies, strengthen the positive aspects and be opened to new ways of teaching. Likewise, our “educational worldview” determines what type of teacher evaluation system we embrace. Hence, here too, we need to examine our worldview so that we can shift our thinking and practice to exclude negative impacts, strengthen what works well and embrace innovative systems.
Worldview could be described as a set of fundamental beliefs that governs a society’s culture in terms of norms, value systems and ways of living. Writers Richard Gabriel and Richard Allington contend that the United States educational worldview is chiefly defined by test scores and that this focus is what influences the popular practice of using test scores to determine teacher effectiveness. Others echo the same view.
For instance, Peterson’s (2000) observes that despite the varied types of evaluation documentation that have been proposed, standardized test scores have matured as the primary measure used to determine student achievement mainly because of a prevailing public view that teacher learning should result in student achievement and also because tests are less costly to produce than tests that seek to measure complex skills such as critical thinking. He joined Danielson and McGreal (2000) in denouncing the use of standardized test scores as the exclusive/primary unit used to measure student achievement. Additionally, Stiggins (2002) argues that most of the standardized tests only determine the status of learning rather than promote learning and that this does not measure how students’ learning is affected during the process. And perhaps above all else, the emphasis on accountability has been heightened by the No Child Left Behind Law of 2001 and the Race to the Top initiative of 2009. Both have catapulted test scores to preeminence on the measurement side of the teacher evaluation scale.
These are some of the same criticisms that we hear today about the role of standardized test scores when we consider whether teacher evaluation systems should emphasize measurement or development. Have we fallen victim to what Edward Hall, author of Beyond Culture refers to as being stuck with the program that culture imposes? In other words, have we internalized this belief in test scores as the only true valid and reliable form of measuring teacher effectiveness so deeply that we are blind to any other options?
In his article, “A Tale of Two Districts,” Mark Simon notes that the education bureaucracy has a proclivity to embrace teacher evaluation systems that use test scores to sort, rank and rate teachers as oppose to embracing systems that focus on promoting professional growth. Perhaps agreements such as the initial agreement between the New York City Teachers Union and the New York City Department of Education to not have test scores predominate the teacher evaluation system, portends well for the movement towards a balanced approach that consists of both measurement and development. Indeed, the findings of the final research of the Measure of Effective Teaching (MET) project, evidences to some extent that a balanced approach is the best strategy for determining teacher effectiveness.
What gets included on both sides of the scale and in what measure, will have to be worked out. However, doing so with an understanding of the underlying assumptions formed by our educational worldview and being open to try different/new strategies means that we stand a chance to put together evaluation systems that will promote effective teaching and learning.
Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alxeandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hall, E. T. (1989). Beyond Culture. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday
Gabriel, R., Allington, R. (2012). The MET Project: The Wrong $45 Million Question. Educational Leadership, 70(3), 44.
Patton, M. Q. (1997). In (Ed.), Utilized-focused evaluation: the new century text (3rd ed.,)
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication Inc.
Peterson, K. D. (2000). Teacher evaluation: A comprehensive guide to new directions and
practices (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Simon, M. (2012). A Tale of Two Districts. Educational Leadership, 70(3), 58.
Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: the absence of assessment for learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758-765.