Events in New York and, really, all around the country have proved the teachers’ unions right: it’s been a big mistake to subject teachers to high-stakes testing, especially while moving to the new Common Core standards.
If you live in New Hampshire, all of this debate might seem foreign to you. We do hear Common Core opponents trying to latch onto the national debate and scare up fears of high-stakes testing, but it just doesn’t wash in New Hampshire.
Unlike in New York and some other states, high-stakes testing is not New Hampshire policy. Each school district negotiates its own evaluation plan with its union, but the state model for teacher evaluation is about improvement rather than punishment. A teacher whose students do not do well gets helped, not automatically fired as in high-stakes states. Schools no longer get ranked and shamed as No Child Left Behind did, and high-stakes states do. The state evaluation model says that, if test scores are used, they should not be tied to individual teachers – that’s not a useful or accurate way to use test scores – but to the whole group of teachers at a school.
New Hampshire negotiated the country’s best No Child Left Behind waiver, which supports all of these policies. Test scores do not need to be used at all for teacher evaluation for the next two school years and, after that, the requirement is minimal.
The counterproductive high-stakes testing policies used in other states are increasingly coming under fire. In addition to the New York rollback, both the NEA and the conservative Fordham institute said this week that high-stakes testing policies are destructive to the Common Core effort and should be suspended.
Here’s NEA head Dennis Van Roekel in the Washington Post:
“My greatest fear for the students of America is that we may lose the promise of the Common Core standards because we screwed up the implementation,” Van Roekel said.
He echoed an earlier call by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, for a moratorium on using new Common Core tests to evaluate teachers and make other accountability decisions for several years while schools transition to the new standards.
Though the Common Core has faced vocal opposition from political groups that characterize them as a federalized takeover of local education, and from academic groups that say the standards are either too lax or too challenging, Van Roekel made it clear that he still supports the idea of the standards.
“I’m saying it’s not working and we have to change what you’re doing, listen to the teachers and give them what they need to do this well,” he said.
And here’s the Fordham Institute yesterday:
…there is no inherent reason why Common Core and new teacher-evaluation policies have to be linked with one another. One need not have common standards to redesign teacher evaluation, and vice versa. The major unforced error here was in the Obama Administration’s pushing these two policies contemporaneously. As a result, the policies have become conflated in ways that have undermined both of them—as some of us have been predicting for a while. There is the increasingly real possibility that teacher evaluation will destroy the Common Core in some places.
Policymakers shouldn’t be afraid of the high-stakes moratorium for teacher-accountability purposes. In fact, they should embrace it. Delaying questionable teacher-evaluation policies for a couple years won’t cause massive disruption. Indeed, it will give folks the opportunity to reevaluate and improve these systems. Keeping the evaluations and risking the Common Core, on the other hand, would certainly disrupt the great efforts educators have been making to rise to meet the new standards.