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Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 10/01/2012

More ways ‘value-added’ teacher evaluations harm students

Veteran California educator Larry Ferlazzo read a piece I posted here by New York Principal Carol Burris about how using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is hurting students and he asked his own principal for a reaction.

Ted Appel, the principal of Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento shared how own ideas about how so-called “value-added” teacher evaluations harm students and Ferlazzo posted them on his blog. Ferlazzo also writes a teacher advice column for Education Week Teacher and has authored four books on education, his latest being The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide.

Here’s what Appel said:

Using test scores to evaluate teachers can also have a significant impact on the inclusion of Special Education students. Fully including students with learning and other disabilities is not only a civil right, but pedagogically supported by research. While many special education students may struggle academically in “regular” education classes, and score poorly on standardized tests, there are significant social and emotional benefits to inclusion. Evaluating teachers based on test scores may create resistance to full inclusion for non-pedagogic reasons.

And in a strange twist on the argument, some teachers may want special education students in their classes who take the CMA (California Modified Assessment). Students taking these tests may provide a boost to test scores and result in a better evaluation. [These teachers may or may not be the best placement for those students.] Either way, what is clear is that using test data for teacher evaluations distorts decision-making away from the best interest of the student.
Using test data to evaluate teachers has another significant impact on middle and high school course selection for students. Schools already rig the system by placing students in less challenging courses in the belief that they will score better in lower-level courses. This is particularly true in math and science, which is greatly detrimental to student preparation for college admission and success.

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