Wasting More Money by Molly Putnam

NY Times

Molly Putnam has taught at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn for eight years. She currently teaches government and economics in the social studies department.

In my eight years as a teacher in New York City, here’s what I’ve observed about standardized tests:

The test scores go up. 
The test scores go down. 
The test is too easy. 
The test is too hard. 
The schools are cheating. 
Too many students are passing with a 65. 
Not enough students are passing. 
Too many students are passing. 
The teachers are teaching to the test. 
This teacher is not teaching enough to the test. 
Tests are biased.

All newspaper headlines about standardized tests, since governments have mandated them, fall under one of these categories. I have never seen an article entitled: "Fair Tests Lead to Fair Results." As New York City starts to design more standardized tests using its “Race to the Top” funds, the same complaints are sure to surface about those new measures.

Use the millions being poured into more testing for intensive teacher training.

So, why would New York City fall back on testing to assess its teachers? Because the real answer is too difficult and time consuming, and because it would require a cultural shift — from one that lays blame to one that encourages cooperation and support.

This “Race to the Top” money could be spent on methods that have been proven to improve teacher quality and retention rates — like intensive student teaching and training in lesson planning, instruction and classroom management. A culture change would also mean having principals and senior teachers become even more engaged in mentoring and guiding younger teachers.

Pedro Noguera, a professor of teaching at New York University, has said that “It takes 10 years to adequately measure a school.” If it takes 10 years to measure a school, it is going to take decades to measure a school system. While New York City’s school administrators try to figure out a “fair test” to measure its students, and thereby its teachers, the only people who are really going to suffer are those who matter most: the students.

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