“STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES”
This October, while public school teachers across the country were engaged in the daily work of educating the nation’s children, the U.S. Education Department released new rules governing teacher preparation programs which guarantee to continue the abuse and misuse of those same children’s test scores.
The report on the new rules claims that some teacher preparation programs “report statistically significant differences in the student learning outcomes of their graduates.” “Student learning outcomes” means, of course, standardized test scores. The new regulations, the report says,
…address shortcomings in the current system by defining the indicators of quality that a State must use to assess the performance of its teacher preparation programs, including more meaningful indicators of program inputs and program outcomes, such as the ability of the program’s graduates to produce gains in student learning (understanding that not all students will learn at the same rate) [emphasis added].
How does one measure “gains in student learning?” By standardized tests. The new regulations encourage states to grade teacher preparation programs on the test scores of their student’s students. In other words, for example, Indiana University would have been held responsible for the test scores of my students throughout my 35 year teaching career.
A DIFFERENT STANDARD
Teachers, and now, the teachers of teachers, are held to a different standard than any other profession. Do Driver Education Schools get blamed for drivers who break traffic laws or have accidents? Do Dental Schools get evaluated on the dental health of their graduate’s patients? Do Business Schools get graded on the number of widgets their graduates sell? Are Harvard and Columbia getting low marks because John King, the U.S. Secretary of Education, is making insane rules for public schools yet has minimal knowledge about teaching and learning in the nation’s public schools?
This doubling down on the standardized testing insanity plaguing our students and schools is partially based on the false assumption that “America’s public schools are failing.” The last 15 years of federal legislation has put the blame for this “failure” on America’s teachers and students through a series of test and punish programs which have destroyed the foundational institution of public schools in municipalities around the country. Only it didn’t work. There are still “failing” schools.
Now, policy makers who have little to no practical experience in public schools, are frantically searching for a new scapegoat and have grabbed on to the teachers of the teachers.
The ultimate result of this will be that those schools of education which send their graduates to public schools filled with low-income students are the preparation programs which will be deemed failures.
THE FAILURE MUST BE SHARED
There is a direct correlation between family income and student achievement. Students living in poverty come to school with a vastly different background than wealthier students. Economic and racial isolation, lack of resources, and lower parental achievement levels, all contribute to the differences in student achievement levels. No amount of blame assigned to teachers, or teachers of teachers, will change that.
Furthermore, using standardized achievement tests as the basis of grading these professionals – even when other factors are included – is inadequate because the tests themselves are flawed due to cultural and racial biases, and the limitations of the tests to measure that which is immeasurable.
For information about the relationship between poverty and achievement, see the following articles
Where does the poverty, which is the main cause of low student achievement, begin? It stems from the racism and economic polarization which is rampant in American society. “Failing” schools are not the cause of low student achievement, they’re the result of a failing society. Eliminating poverty and inequity will improve education.
“…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
We are one of only three nations in the O.E.C.D. to spend more money on our wealthy students than on our poor students. In the political arena partisan stubbornness rather than cooperative compromise prevents us from dealing with the poverty which overwhelms nearly one fourth of the nation’s children.
Why isn’t the label of “failure” branded on our legislatures? Legislators have failed to raise employment to 100%. They have failed to provide adequate food, shelter, and health care for all children. They have failed to ensure that all schools have sufficient resources. They send teachers “into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care,” but never take on the label of “failure” themselves.
Why is the label, “failure,” only reserved for teachers, schools, and now schools of education?
Who has failed to raise the achievement of our lowest achieving public school students? Teachers? Teacher preparation programs? Or policy makers who refuse to accept their own share of responsibility?
OTHER RESPONSES TO THE U.S. ED RULES ON TEACHER PREPARATION
by Anya Kamenetz for NPR
…imagine that law schools were rated by states based on the percentage of their graduates’ clients who won their cases in the first three years. Or imagine medical schools required to report the vital statistics of the patients of their newly-minted doctors.
By Peter Greene
…we could also use test results to evaluate the work of officials who set education policy, and if test results fail to go up annually, we could simply fire all those officials, whether they are officially appointed ones like John King or unofficially self-appointed ones like Bill Gates. But that would just be crazy talk. Almost as crazy as doing an actual evaluation of tests themselves. Those holy instruments may be used to evaluate everything in sight, but the sacred magical tests themselves must never be questioned, remaining in place as the twisted foundation of one wobbly edifice after another.
by Diane Ravitch
Secretary of Education John King is releasing regulations that will punish education programs if their graduates teach students whose scores are low. “Reformers” are supposed to be aware of the power of incentives, but not Secretary King. He thinks he can scare education programs to focus more on raising test scores. More likely is that teachers will get the message to avoid teaching in schools that enroll students who are impoverished, and that their preparation programs will encourage them to steer clear of the neediest children.
by Valerie Strauss
…the new regulations…require states to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs, an effort, supporters say, to separate the successful programs from the failures. They still also require each state to evaluate teacher-training programs based on student learning, but this time leaving it to the states to decide how to measure academic growth and how much it should weigh in an overall rating. That means that the department will permit states to use test scores for evaluation — a method that is not used to evaluate any other professional preparation program…