The US is the wealthiest country on the planet, and Mark Dynarski wants to implicate teachers for low test scores.
Mark Dynarski gets it wrong with teacher evaluation (Brookings, Dec. 8, 2016).
Mark Dynarski does not understand assessment: "The crucial question is whether students are learning. To answer that, we need some measure of learning: a test." Tests do not measure student learning. Tests measure a student's ability or choice to achieve high test scores.
The author does not understand science: "Teacher evaluation systems need a stronger scientific basis." Science would consider a systemic, holistic approach, and then isolate variables. Individual humans are too varied to prove (or disprove) a teacher's effectiveness. Trends or patterns within one classroom with 25 students, or across several classroom with 150 students, in the same year or over several years, SHOULD vary based on students' interests and needs, and the extent to which a teacher is supported by her/his school. There are too many variables before, during and after school to link teacher effectiveness with "objective" test scores.
Perhaps the author does not understand inequity: "We need a more solid research and measurement foundation about what aspects of teaching improve learning." Data from The Spirit Level shows that among the wealthiest 23 countries on the planet, those with the biggest income inequality (i.e. the U.S.) have the highest rates of depression, mental illness, teen pregnancy, incarceration rates, drug abuse, obesity, and violence, and low educational "achievement" rates (see Fig. 1 below).
|Fig. 1: Among the top 23 richest nations, educational scores decrease with an increase in income inequality. For more on the impact of income inequality and health and wellness, check out The Spirit Level.|
The author does not understand pedagogy: "We are spending billions to little effect because we do not know enough about what we are looking for." I know what I am looking for; I'm sure it varies among colleagues -- and I'm OK with that. I think that effective teachers:
- cultivate a love of life-long learning
- promote critical and creative literacy
- foster democratic civic engagement
If students come to school and aren't ready to learn, then we need to support educators and create equitable in-school conditions and capacity to help children learn.
Focusing on education as a means to redress poverty will help to a point: but it will not address the source of inequities, i.e. income inequality.
The author has a point: "We need a more solid research and measurement foundation about what aspects of teaching improve learning." We need hybrid teaching roles so that more teachers can conduct meaningful research and advocate for effective systemic strategies that promote student engagement.