Guest blogger Rick Beach, president of the San Diego Science Alliance, is continuing our conversation on whether test scores are the right way to gauge teaching. Check out his first post here.

These are his views, not mine, so if you have comments, questions or counterarguments, please post them directly to the blog or e-mail Rick directly at rick.beach@amazingpossibilities.org. Don’t forget to tell him if he can use your name to respond to your points in a blog post. And if you have a different view and want to blog on this topic, feel free to contact me at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

An email response to this blog from a San Diego Unified parent who has been a school board member elsewhere suggested that things won’t change. Here are some excerpts from their e-mail:

After reading your email I was reminded of the quote attributed to Churchill on the topic of capitalism “Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for everything else.”

Although we haven’t tried much else for teacher evaluation. Time now to make the effort.

The frustration that critics of education often hurl at the education system is its resistance to accountability measures. Your commentary, while perfectly sensible, does not address the central concerns of many parents:

  • How can we predict before the academic year begins which teachers will be best for our children?
  • How can we determine after the academic year ends that our children realized their academic potential under the supervision of the teacher(s) they had?
  • Until someone develops a system that addresses these two concerns, I’m afraid the child’s performance on standardized tests will be the measure by which teachers are evaluated.

For sure, I believe that parents, and more importantly the entire community, deserve to know that the educational system is improving the ranks of teachers year over year. Those in the educational system need to respond to community desires for good and effective teaching. And children need to know that they are progressing in their academic achievement.

Your two concerns are great benchmarks for an accountability system that does more than simply apply bubbled-in answers to multiple-choice exams. Where do we measure your child’s creativity?

Their problem-solving skills? Their teamwork and collaboration skills? Their literacy with information and technology? Those life skills seem more important to realizing a student’s potential.

You’ll find these things championed by advocates for twenty-first century skills.

I believe that until teachers unions or other education-oriented professional development organizations develop an easy to understand and widely accepted measure, standardized test performance will continue to be “the worst system except for everything else.”

How to do that? Start by campaigning for a shift from a test score regimen to an achievement evaluation for school children. The community needs to recognize the whole child, not just their skill with a number 2 pencil on a multiple-choice exam.

As for teachers unions, look for two pioneering efforts with union support, in Denver Public Schools with a incentive compensation that includes teacher evaluations, and in Cincinnati where teacher evaluations occur regularly and the union participates in ways to help teachers improve.

In California, the political support for the testing industrial complex of publishers and testing companies enabled by simplistic claims for measuring academic progress seems to have the upper hand. Without community advocacy, we’re doomed to persist with these untenable measures. Without trying anything else.

Cheers,

— RICK BEACH

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