Kim Mead’s guest column “We overtest our students” [Opinion, April 2] accurately discusses standardized testing’s shortcomings.
But, as a business person married to an elementary school teacher, I’ve long felt that most business-oriented citizens likely struggle, as I used to do, with why educators protest evaluating teacher performance using students’ test scores. In the business world, we evaluate workers by results they produce. Why not in education?
Having observed my wife’s situation as a career elementary teacher in a low-income school district for some years, the reason is clear. It’s not a level playing field for teachers. Kids with low-educated parents, who struggle with low incomes, troubles with the law and drugs are students with an entirely different starting point than those from more successful home environments. “Acting out” for some students in the classroom and other problems are not anomalies, but normal behavior in terms of their home environment.
Let’s measure each student’s situation relative to standards, certainly, but we should also be looking at whether progress is being achieved from where the particular student is at. A student well below standard who is aided by a skilled teacher to improve and be positive about his or her education going forward is a huge achievement, even if the year-end test shows some to still be below national standards.
Witnessing, as I have, what many teachers do to make an impact in kids’ lives who have so much going against them, we should be much more thankful and supportive of those who are succeeding with this extremely difficult task. Our society’s future is on the line here.
Let’s support teachers who do it well by developing more accurate ways to measure their results, while also providing more support to their ideas and techniques that help students and their families succeed, both in school and in life.
Roger Newby, Seattle