Teacher equity and the use of high-stakes testing
“Teachers get lumped in with test scores a lot, but I see it as more of a part of that scale — it’s the metric the school uses to determine if students are succeeding or not,” said Lissette Hernandez, a third-grade teacher at William L. Jennings Elementary School. “I think it’s really important that more students see value in their educational experience, especially when they think they’re not.”
The teaching profession is rapidly evolving, which makes it essential for teachers to receive more than test scores to justify their hard work and why they should be paid more, advocates say. Many students are now recognized for individual talents, so teachers need to be able to identify those talents to build on them and analyze data to see how they can help the student achieve the best possible outcomes.
“In the past, if a student wanted to improve their writing skills, they would come in and just work on their reading,” Hernandez said. “Now, the expectations of what they can learn are so high that you need to know how to deliver an enriched curriculum that is also test-prep focused to produce truly engaged students who can write.”
Lissette Hernandez teaches third grade at William L. Jennings Elementary School. (Chris Schneider/Strides Global Success Institute)
“I need to know where to look, what kind of students you have to see the potential, who are the good students to engage with, who are struggling students, who may be exceptional students,” said Anthony Corvo, a language arts professor at Stony Brook University. He is president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a teacher equity advocacy group, and has worked for years to promote states and districts to develop and evaluate test scores as part of this shift.
“How are they investing resources for kids?” he said. “Are they redirecting resources to more traditionally disadvantaged schools or that schools who get high test scores like, say, if a school has a lot of economically disadvantaged kids and those kids get off to such a great start, do they still do as well with those students? How do we know whether or not the kids who got off to such a great start are working toward learning that gets them all the way to their grade level?”
Corvo estimates that 80 percent of teachers spend at least some time reviewing test scores and other data in order to keep teaching students who want to learn. But among teachers who are even just somewhat involved in test score discussions, or who have an academic interest in the subject, he estimates that 50 percent will touch on the subject. “If we don’t do anything about this, we’re heading back to where it was in the past, when everyone took the same test, and everyone got the same education. We can’t get there.”
This year, the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at American Institutes for Research began a review of 99 states’ grading practices and found that only a few, including California, have ranked them more or less equally. Several states have introduced or are considering legislation that would give teachers stronger guidelines to effectively manage the data. But even if they are the same or different, teachers need tools to be able to effectively navigate data to promote learning. “It’s really hard to score well on most of these tests,” Corvo said. “You don’t really know where you stand.”
Hernandez said that, to better understand the process of teaching, teachers need to be able to review test data with a strategy of looking at the data to learn about what they’re doing right and what they can do better, and then putting those findings to use in the classroom.
“That’s really what I feel like we’re missing as educators,” she said. “Do the teachers have time to go out and actually look at how our students are doing? Because we really need to understand not only what we’re doing with our kids individually, but also how we’re performing against the law and how we’re actually achieving the goals for our students. We need to know that we are good, so when the student walks in the door, he’s going to know what he should expect from us.”
Reporting by Katherine Jordan
Learn more about the teacher equity movement and the use of high-stakes testing in schools at Strides Global Success Institute.
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