Teacher tests miss real problems

Thursday September 20, 2012

The sticking point over teacher contracts in the just-concluded Chicago strike ap parently revolved around using standardized tests to measure competency for unionized teachers. Implicit in the controversy is the widely held notion that teachers unions try to protect bad teachers.

Students in the wealthy suburbs around Chicago perform well on these tests, suggesting that teachers in an affluent community do a better job educating students. What might happen to Chicago standardized test scores if the teachers from Glencoe, Kenil worth and Winnetka traded places with the Chicago teachers? Would the Chicago students’ scores rise to the level of the suburban kids? Would the suburban students’ scores plummet? Or are there other factors at work?

Should such an experiment happen, my guess is that it would show that too much emphasis is placed on the competency of teachers and not nearly enough on poverty, violence, hunger, poor health, drugs, gangs and broken homes. Until those problems are addressed, no amount of hiring and firing of teachers or teacher accountability will make a significant difference.




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