Apparently NYC already uses test scores as a factor in teacher/principal bonus pay (yes, they have that too), for the grade a school gets (A-F) and for which schools are closed because of poor performance. A lot of this effort is to get Race to the Top money.
The article suggests that the Mayor (he just won his third term despite having said he would follow the law that he couldn't run again - he got that changed) may put forth his political capital to take on the teachers union.
And from the article of interest to us:
"The mayor also said the state should allow teacher layoffs based on performance rather than seniority, as they are now."
“The only thing worse than having to lay off teachers would be laying off great teachers instead of failing teachers,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “With a transparent new evaluation system, principals would have the ability to make layoffs based on merit — but only if the State Legislature gives us the authority to do it.”
Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, suggested that the mayor would not find satisfaction in Albany. “These are all contractual issues that should be dealt with at the bargaining table,” he said."
The head of the NYC teachers union, Michael Mulgrew, said that the tests have become too easy and lost their ability to gauge student improvement. So Mayor Bloomberg has hastily said that the state should adopt national standards and make the test harder.
"Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, called the issue of state tests the “Achilles’ heel of the accountability movement.”“When you ask any teacher, even a good one, they tend to be pretty leery of being held accountable on these tests,” Ms. Walsh said. “These tests aren’t linked to the actual curriculum, and they have to be."
But, she said, they have “validity for making decisions at the extreme end: Teachers who are really talented tend to be in the top and teachers who are poor tend to be in the bottom year after year.”
This was an interesting quote:
"Teachers interviewed on Wednesday about the plan were universal in their condemnation. “It’s ridiculous,” said Kanayo Al-Broderick, a third-grade teacher at Public School 56 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, who is in her 22nd year of teaching. “It just means they did well on this test. Does it show we’ve built them to be lifelong readers, to love reading? That’s what all teachers want.”
Is that important and can it be measured? Meaning, the love of not just reading but of learning. I was in Bartell's the other day and on the same aisle as me was a mother and her about-4-year old son. He was so excited and pointed out everything of interest on the aisle. But it wasn't just , "Mommy, look at this." He was making specific comments about the value and use of the items he saw. I told his mom that that kind of interest in the world around him was going to be great when he got to school because he was just so energized to figure things out.
Fostering that need to know, to wonder, to explain is at the heart of learning. I think when parents, for whatever reason, don't have this happening at home, it makes the teacher's job much more difficult. But, we have all seen teachers who just made a subject come alive. If your child is engaged, happy to go to school and is making progress, how is that measured? Can a test measure that?
It is a very big question because again, are we looking to measure students or teachers? And if we are doing both at the same time, how large should a test figure?
I would be interesting to have a teacher survey asking what they see from their end about students coming into class. From the teachers you might ask how many students come ready to learn (awake, fed, mostly listening), how many students seem at grade level when they got to your class, does the back-up at home seem apparent? Not that you would have any names attached but how many teachers feel like they are fighting the tide when the kids just get to class because they aren't ready to learn?
I'm not suggesting any personalization to this and, of course, it would be just an interesting exercise but if we are grading teachers, student preparation (i.e. parents) are part of their challenge to teach.