NYC to publish teacher records of student test scores–What’s the purpose?

Just wanted to write some quick thoughts about the recent political decision to publish teacher records of student test scores in the newspaper.  In addition to the questions I have about the validity and usefulness of this data, I really find it strange that the city is so keen on publishing teacher records of student test scores without first showing these records to teachers themselves.  A commenter, “John,” in this Gotham Schools post first brought the point to my attention.

How is it helpful for the public to see that information?  How is it helpful for teachers and students to have this made public?  It looks like sensationalism to me, made even worse by the fact that teachers themselves do not know how they are rated.  Supposing testing data were in fact helpful in determining teacher effectiveness (and that has not been proven)–as a motivator, wouldn’t it make sense to show teachers their current ratings and tell us that, say, in one or two years, the data will be made public?

As it stands, the city seems to be playing a game of gotcha with public school teachers, instead of working to help teachers improve their practices so that students learn more.

This reminds me of the impulse teachers sometimes have to “punish” students with pop quizzes, when they suspect the students haven’t learned the material, just to prove a point.  We have probably all tried it at some point, so I’m not saying categorically that a teacher who does this is “bad.”  However, the problem with this practice is that it doesn’t help students learn more.  It may motivate one or two students to try harder the next day.  But it also creates a climate of fear and punishment–learn because you fear what will happen if you don’t.  That is not what learning is really about, and many students (even high performing ones) will actually shut down under such conditions–especially if you publicize their grades to the entire school on said quiz.  (Remember the teacher in L.A. who committed suicide, rest in peace.)

Publishing teacher test results without bringing teachers into a conversation about what, when and why this change will take place is like a punitive, high stakes pop quiz. The city should know better.

[image credit: penn-olson.com]

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