Thursday, April 11, 2013

Report shows need to move away from test fixation

A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is yet another lesson from overseas demonstrating the need for a course correction in the United States—away from our obsession with a punitive accountability approach that uses high-stakes standardized tests as its centerpiece and towards a more supportive accountability approach that continuously improves teacher performance and student learning, AFT president Randi Weingarten says.

The report, Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, urges a balanced and holistic approach to evaluation, assessment and teacher improvement so that the overall emphasis is on efforts to help, not punish, teachers and to give students a great education. It recommends that teacher evaluations feed into professional development, ensure that underperformance is identified and adequately addressed, and ensure input from teachers and other stakeholders.

"It should give pause to those U.S. education leaders and so-called reformers who are fixated on high-stakes tests to the virtual exclusion of using multiple measures to inform instruction and improve teacher quality," Weingarten says.

"The report's recommendations echo what Vicki Phillips (of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and I said in a column in the April 11 New Republic. A high-quality teacher development and evaluation system requires elements that are designed to improve teacher practice and student learning, including matching high expectations with high levels of support, using evidence of teaching and student learning from multiple sources, providing constructive feedback to teachers, and aligning teacher development and evaluation to the Common Core State Standards."

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