The Seattle Public Schools administration is proposing to tie teacher evaluations and employment to student test scores — a bone of contention in current negotiations with the Seattle Education Association. Guest columnists Pat Bailey and Robert Femiano, past union board members, argue that the district’s approach is wrong.
The Seattle school district is proposing to tie teacher evaluations and employment to student test scores.
The current teacher evaluation includes student growth as a factor but the district wants an easier path and quicker time frames for teacher dismissals. The district officials’ plan is to use test scores to fire those teachers they claim are responsible for the poverty and racial academic gaps and reward those with high improvements in scores. History shows this carrot-and-stick approach not only fails to reduce the achievement gap but is ultimately unhealthy for good teaching.
One result of high-stakes testing is clear: The inordinate focus on test scores narrows what is taught. Diane Ravitch’s “The death and life of the great American school system” documents this and other unintended consequences. In order to keep their jobs, teachers will teach and re-teach to the test. Lost are the arts, music, PE, civics, science and even recess. Early-childhood experts point to rich school environments as crucial to healthy development, so who wants to cause the opposite?