Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Measurement part 2

From Matt Yglesias:

On a recent evaluation, her principal, Oliver Ramirez, checked off all the appropriate boxes, Tan said — then noted that she had been late to pick up her students from recess three times.

“I threw it away because I got upset,” Tan said. “Why don’t you focus on my teaching?! Why don’t you focus on where my students are?”

Matt argues that proponents of teacher effectiveness are misunderstanding their critics:

The idea has gotten out there that proponents of measuring and rewarding high-quality teaching are somehow engaged in “teacher-bashing.” I think that’s one part bad faith on the part of our antagonists, one part misunderstanding on the part of people who don’t follow the issue closely, and at least one part our own fault for focusing too much on the negative.

But I think his own example is showing why skepticism persists. It's easy to measure the wrong things, incentive the wrong behavior and do a fair amount of damage to a system. What I would really like to see is an argument for incremental change and experimentation rather than radical reform driven by standardized tests. Or, if we must use some sort of standardized test approach, I’d like to have some better evidence that these tests are designed to measure teacher effectiveness and do not omit important elements. For example, I think clear and interesting writing is hard to do (as readers of this blog may notice when they try and follow my words) and it is very hard to objectively score. Multiple choice questions on word definitions are much easier to do but, perhaps, may not measure the most important skills we want to teach.

Certainly something to ponder.

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