Judging teachers by student test performance is unfair

To the Editor:

In the United States, elementary- and middle-school testing has spiraled into something much more than it used to be. Starting with the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers were graded on their students’ performance on standardized tests.

In many ways, this is already bad, but it gets worse: If the student scores a perfect score one year and then a perfect score the next, the teacher’s rating goes down because the student didn’t improve.

There have been many stories about teachers such as Carolyn Abbott (who taught seventh-grade math) whose students got in the 98th percentile of students in New York City. In eighth-grade, they were predicted to get in the 97th percentile, but they got in the 89th percentile.

This drop from the 97th to the 89th percentile made her almost at the bottom of all the math teachers in New York City. She was a great teacher but, since the students scored lower the next year, she took the hit.

Sometimes the problem isn’t that the students are great one year, and OK the next: sometimes they just aren’t strong students and it’s not the teacher’s fault. The English Language Arts is a test of stamina, and some kids just give up half-way through, or can’t handle the pressure, and mess up their teacher’s grade.

As you know, some parents ask for a specific teacher. Unluckily now, some base it on said teacher’s grade. This makes it very hard for the administrators to create classes.

But, this is not the sole purpose of the grade. The grade also determines what teachers get laid off and what teachers get bonuses. Mostly these days, with all the budget cuts, layoffs are more likely.

Right now, it costs $30 to make one test for one student. Couldn’t we use that money for something more worthwhile?

How can we stop this? Kids can refuse to take the test, but, if enough children in the school refuse, the state cuts funding to the school.

I have had teachers who tell the students all the bad things about the tests but there is nothing they can do. Schools have nothing to do but make their kids take the test…

I can see why some education departments want the test. There should be a way to see how good teachers are at their jobs. But judging solely by student performance on standardized tests is just not fair.

Noah Cohen-Greenberg

New Scotland

More Back to School

Voorheesville's third- through eighth-grade scores from last year's Common Core tests show female students doing consistently better than male students.

Americans are increasingly opposed to Common Core standards although much of the oppositon appears related to other reforms, such as accountability for teachers, fostering more testing.

Guilderland teachers havae agreed to be evaluated through state tests so students will have to face fewers exams. Also this year, a $400,000 state "Teaching is the Core" grant will promote in-class coaching.