Too good to be true

The Education Week website recently published an article describing allegations of cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams in a number of schools in Philadelphia.  Similar to stories from other districts, including Atlanta and Washington, D.C., the allegations state that principals and/or teachers were involved in changing student test sheets after they were handed in, in order to change wrong answers to correct ones. In the case of Atlanta, the allegations have been found to be true, while the Washington and Philadelphia incidents are still under investigation.

The likely purpose behind this form of cheating is to increase the performance of schools, which under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act passed in 2002 (as the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is measured based largely on the performance of students on state curricular framework tests.  Under the original NCLB statute, schools had to achieve a standard, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, toward the legislation’s goal of 100% of students achieving proficiency on the state tests by the year 2014.  There has been much controversy around the heavy-handed use of student test scores not just for assessing students, but also for measuring school and even teacher performance (the latter of which I wrote about in an early blog post).  In response to some of these concerns, the Obama administration has allowed states to apply for a waiver for complying with the requirements of NCLB, as long as they come up with an alternative plan for improving student performance in schools and assessing school performance.

Continue reading “Too good to be true”

Strikes and scores

strikeThe Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted Tuesday to end its seven-day-old strike, and the teachers were back in the schools yesterday.  The strike, at the nation’s third largest school district, received quite a bit of attention across the nation, with coverage on major media outlets.  There were a number of contentious issues in the negotiations between the CTU and the Chicago Board of Education, but none was more vigorously contested than that of teacher evaluations.

How to effectively assess teacher performance has been hotly debated in educational policy – and research – circles in recent years.  Historically, at least in those school districts around the country that were unionized, there was relatively little formal teacher evaluation and assessment done once a teacher had been tenured, which generally occurred within the first four years of his or her career (disclosure: while I have never been a member of a teacher’s union, my wife has been in the past).

Continue reading “Strikes and scores”