Training begins today for a new teacher evaluation system in New York City. The Department of Education says the old rating system for teachers, satisfactory or not, has been around since the 1930s. And after a long battle between the city and the teachers union, the state has stepped in with a new plan for how teachers should be graded.
This story isn’t supposed to be about standardized tests, but when you evaluate teachers, it often leads to testing students.
Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the testing advocacy group FairTest, says even kindergartners in gym class in Ohio are now facing standardized tests.
“Questions like when you hop, you land on the same foot and when you skip, you move one leg and then the other — true or false?” he says.
But standardized tests, says Schaeffer, are known to be ineffective.
“If the goal of a phys ed test is to teach sports skills and lifelong exercise interest, how do you create a pencil and paper test that measures that?” he asks.
Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, notes that not all the new evaluation methods in New York City will rely on standardized testing. Unlike Schaeffer, Jacobs says the tests can be helpful.
“The idea that a teacher wants to assess where students are is central to education,” she says.
Both Jacobs and Schaeffer do agree on one thing — more schools around the country are evaluating more teachers, which will probably mean more tests for students.