At the governor’s education workshop Thursday, members of a four-person panel on fostering quality teaching agreed that teacher evaluations should not be based solely on student test scores.
Some argue that test scores are the best indicator of a teacher’s performance but Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the argument over testing “has become incredibly ridiculous.”
“Every teacher I know creates tests to figure out where their kids are. But this is about student improvement. Most tests were never created as a teacher evaluation document,” she told the workshop at Central Connecticut State University.
Weingarten argued that test scores should be used to evaluate teachers, but only as one of a number of other factors. She wasn’t alone. On Tuesday, Connecticut’s largest teachers union released a report which included the same recommendation.
Every member of the panel agreed with the unions’ position. Though he disagreed with Weingarten on how to reform teacher tenure, Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said there are other ways to gauge a teacher’s success that need to be included.
“The most significant factor should be growth in student achievement multiply measured. Not a test score. Test scores will be a part of it but there are a lot of other ways to measure growth,” he said.
Professional practice should also be considered as well peer reviews and input from the parents of students, Cirasuolo said.
New Haven Superintendent Reginald Mayo said his city already uses multiple methods of assessing teachers.
In New Haven, student performance makes up 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, he said. The other 50 percent is based on other things like a teacher’s instructional strategies and professional values, he said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that, as a person who never in his life did well on a standardized test, he understood they shouldn’t be the sole measure of success. But he cautioned against disregarding them.
“To deny that there are standards that we must hold ourselves to, and that we must simply take a look in the mirror or on the test form and understand that in many areas, in many communities, poor and urban in nature in our state, we are failing students and we can see it year after year by using, in part, those tests to measure success, would also be equal folly,” he said.
Patrick Riccards, CEO of the private, non-profit, pro-charter school group ConnCAN, who was not on the panel, said test scores should be the most important factor when teachers are evaluated.
Riccards said people who seek to discredit the usefulness of testing want to measure what teacher puts in to their jobs. Test scores are critical to measuring the outcomes of a teacher’s work, he said.
“I think there is still no dispute that test scores have to be a primary driver to that formula,” he said.
On Tuesday Riccards said that states which benefit the most in federal programs like the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funds Connecticut missed out on last month are the states that significantly rely on standardized testing results for evaluations.
“At the end of the day the most effective way to know whether our schools are succeeding or not is to know if our kids are succeeding and that needs to be the primary measure,” he said.
Weingarten said test scores are mostly useful to teachers as a source of data to help teachers hone their craft. The scores allow teachers to gauge where their students are and how well they are learning, she said.
Focusing too much on those numbers turns the evaluation process into “a numbers game and a compliance issue,” she said.
Besides, there is a lot that goes into teaching that can not be measured by a test, she said.
“It reminds me of Albert Einstein, who was an AFT member, who said ‘not everything that counts can be counted,’” she said.