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Debating Test-Based Evaluations

In an op-ed piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a University of Geogia education professor, responding to Steven Brill's New York Times piece, argues that efforts to tie teachers' professional status to student test scores could in effect stifle good instruction. Key passage:

Talented teachers bristle at the idea that they have to conform to the contours of testing mandates in order to be recognized as effective; teaching to the test strips them of the dynamic qualities that have made them effective to begin with. [U.S. Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan might score political points by bashing unions and their emphasis on seniority, but his solution, I believe, will do far more harm than good.

The problem with this line of argument (just to play devil's advocate) is that there are clear examples of schools and teachers that do focus strongly on test-scores and that nevertheless maintain their dynamicism and their connection with students, aren't there? Another way of thinking about this: Shouldn't talented, dynamic teachers (almost by necessity) have more to show for their practice than just a gratifying sense of "student engagement" (important as that is)? That's one of the questions at the heart of this debate.

Just hoping to drum up some conversation ...

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