Diane Ravitch1
  • 1 University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, 627 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012, USA

Holding Education Hostage

2013. No. 2. P. 281–284 [issue contents]

Diane Ravitch, historian of education, Research Professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York, NY, USA.
Email: gardendr@gmail.com
Address: 627 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012, USA.

The author analyzes the measure of teacher quality based on test scores of the students taught. The measure was introduced by the US Race to the Top federal education program and caused a conflict between the teachers union and administrative leaders.

Value-added assessment is the key criterion used in the new teacher assessment system. The assumption is that good teachers produce higher test scores every year, while ineffective teachers do not.

The new measure to evaluate efficiency of teachers is determined as inappropriate. The assessment does not take into account how test scores are contingent on social and economic background of students being tested, or on their learning capabilities. Those who teach students with disabilities, English-language learners, and low-performing students are likely to get smaller gains in test scores than those who teach students from affluent homes in well-funded schools. Using test scores to rate teachers will penalize those who teach the students in greatest need. Over time, teachers will avoid the students who jeopardize their jobs and their reputations. Besides, tests are also subject to human error, sampling error, random error, and other errors. Applying a measure of teacher quality designed to improve numerical rankings means ignoring the complex set of qualities that make someone good at what they do. Inconsistency between the rankings and the real competence of teachers proves that success at teaching character, wisdom, and judgment cannot be measured by standardized tests. 

Citation: Ravitch D. (2013) Obrazovanie v zalozhnikakh u vlasti (per. s angl. L. Troninoy) [Holding Education Hostage]. Voprosy obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no2, pp. 281-284.