The New York Times reported on Feb. 1 that, after the passage of a new bill, New York is joining California and Colorado and will now allow its teachers to be evaluated based on a school district protocol and not based on standardized tests. I can think of no better way to begin this year than to recognize the uniqueness of each person and allow that flexibility into the classrooms, which are meant to foster it but for so long have let it die.
This new bill comes after a history of teacher evaluations getting much of their content from how well students perform on these tests, which is a bit archaic at best. Now each district in certain states can choose their own standard.
This is an important step toward recognizing and allowing for individuality in our schools.
The New York Times article quoted John Liu, a newly elected Democratic state senator from Queens and the person who sponsored the bill in New York: “Do student test scores actually indicate teacher performance? I’m not convinced. An overreliance on testing can result in perverse incentives. The best evidence is teaching to the test."
The article also quoted Robin Lake, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education: “But I think most people agree that we should measure academic progress, and that somebody should be held accountable for the results. It’s just a question of how.”
Both of these points are accurate: We must hold teachers accountable for student success because that is their job, but we must not allow this to enforce the same test of intelligence on a group of diversely intelligent students. We must let school districts and teachers have a hand in determining how to measure grades and success, and we must be flexible in those standards based on new classes of students.
I think we’ve all seen it in action: Some students may write a perfect and thought-provoking essay but fail a test, and vice versa. Merely because a person tests poorly should not reflect poorly on his or her academic intelligence or the success of the teacher involved.
More states should follow this lead and allow individuality to permeate our education systems.