Monday, August 1, 2011

A desire for meaningful teaching and learning

Anthony Cody interviewed Alfie Kohn who urges us to "take back our schools." They discussed the new and improved standardized tests that the DOE is designing to measure complex thinking. There is not a lot of confidence in the system that any test that is standardized one-size-fits-all, created and imposed by distant authorities -- is inauthentic and is likely to measure what matters least. Teachers want to teach well. Almost every student I have ever taught wants to learn. I have thought a lot about how to provide appropriate assessment methods to determine whether both of those things are happening.

There is no easy answer but I keep coming to a holistic approach. New York City has gotten rid of essentially automatic tenure. Under the city’s new standards, teachers are rated on a four-point scale as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective, based on students’ tests scores, classroom observations, feedback from parents, and other factors. (Previously, they were simply rated satisfactory or not.) I am not saying that NYC's method is the best (I still resist using test scores for a variety of reasons I will discuss later), but I admire them for taking a step to make the profession more accountable.