Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zero stakes.

So I just read this article on the SF Gate about SF and Oakland losing out on federal funds because their unions refused to sign on to the strings attached--evaluating teachers based on student test scores. The virulent rhetoric being directed at teachers as a response to the article belies the actual reason teachers objected to those terms.

What is objectionable to teachers is adding stakes to a test for teachers and schools when the test has no stakes for the students. The CST does not affect student grades. The CST does not affect a student's chance to graduate. The CST does not affect a student's college application. In other words, students have no motivation for doing their best on the CST, despite school efforts to inspire them to do so in an attempt to raise scores.

I am a teacher, and my CST scores were the highest for my grade level subject matter at my site. That said, two of my classes vastly outperformed the other two, leaving me with an impressive average but really showing the luck of the draw of it all. I taught the same content, using the same strategies, and yet two classes were full of high performers and two were full of low performers. 

In an effort, however, to motivate students, we spent a lot of time talking about past CST scores and plans of attack for the test. When asked, on a scale of 1-10, how hard they had tried on the previous year's test, none of them gave scores above 7. And why should they? Zero stakes. 

Instead, we have a test for graduation (the CASHEE) and two tests for college (the SAT and ACT). Students try for those tests because they have motivation. They want to graduate. They want to go to college (at least some do.)

We need a single test. One test that determines graduation, college entrance, and student performance on the standards. Perhaps then, when there are SHARED STAKES, teachers will feel more comfortable having meaningful conversations around test data. Until that time, the answer is emphatically no.

In no other business model do we evaluate employees the way we evaluate teachers. When a manager is held accountable for sales results, the sales team has a stake. When a coach is held accountable for games, the players have a stake. We need to create a stake for the students.

That said, you might think: Well the money is the stake. But it's not. Not for the students. Because the students aren't being asked to sign on. The students' scores aren't a part of the conversation. The students aren't a part of the conversation.

Fix the conversation. Then we can talk. Fix the agreement. Then we can agree. 

Last comment. Despite monstrous cuts, our school's API score went up 14 points. Imagine what we could have done with more support. Not just in funds, but in faith from our community. This anti-union sentiment is still anti-teacher sentiment.