A Tale of Two Teachers… Comparing Teachers based on High Stakes Test… Lunacy

Comparing teachers based on one high stakes test that happens on one day in 180 days is an absolute form of lunacy.  Furthermore, linking teacher’s evaluations, even 10% of the evaluation,  on the high stakes test… still… another form of lunacy.

Looney Tunes 8

Here’s why:

Teacher A:  The school year starts with a class of 25 third graders.   Breakfasts in their bellies, clean clothes on their backs, and a night of solid sleep.   The initial screener shows 85% of them are already at standard in both reading and mathematics.   Twenty-one of them Caucasian, one African-American, two Hispanic, one Pakistani. Three students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  One student has an IEP and receives special education support services. Their parents from the middle to upper class consisting of educators, doctors, lawyers, etc…  The majority of homes have more than one computer, at least one iPad, and the children’s bedrooms are filled with books.  These children had an average of 1,000 more hours of lap time reading with their parents before they entered Kindergarten as compared to Teacher B’s students.  One thousand hours.   Through Kindergarten to this initial year of 3rd grade, the hours of time with text at home continues to far exceed Teacher B’s students.

Teacher B:  The school year starts with a class of 25 third graders.  Empty stomachs until they arrive to school 30 minutes early to eat breakfast, some with cleaned clothes, others wearing the same outfit from the day before with aromas of cigarette smoke wafting from them, and many without the necessary sleep to cognitively engage.   The initial screener shows 20% of the students are at standard in reading and mathematics.   Six of the students Marshallese, three students are refugees from Sudan and speak zero English, one Arab speaking student,  and two Russian speaking students with limited English, three Hispanic students, and ten Caucasian students.  All 25 students qualify for free and/or reduced lunch.  Many of these students also qualify to take home a grocery sack filled with meals on Fridays so there is food in their homes for the weekend.   Many of these students parents have combined incomes of less than $10,000-$20,000 a year.   It is rare to hear of any of the students who have computers at home, let alone an iPad.   They have had very little time on the lap of their parents reading, and their vocabulary substantially below Teacher A’s students.   Many students live in shelters, or have moved multiple times from apartment to apartment, and some homeless.  Stories from their lips of mommies and daddies in jail, or a night spent sleeping under a bridge until they can get into a shelter, empty cupboards, exposure to drugs, and parents losing their jobs… run rampant in Teacher B’s classroom.  Pretty Fairy Princess or Superman themed individual bedrooms rare, let alone a bookshelf to hold a book.

Looney Tunes 5The Clincher:

1) Teacher A and Teacher B both are expected, and may I venture to say are “required”, to get their students to standard by March/April as measured by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in which is taken on a computer.

2) This means the two teachers have September – March (maybe April) to teach and ensure all of their students are at standard by the testing date.   This is 6.5 – 7.5 months of instruction….. and remember the two week break in December?  So let’s just say these two teachers have 6-7 months to prepare their students for the big “TEST”.

3)  The big “TEST” (SBAC) is THE one and only measure used to determine if their students met the “rigorous” common core standards.

4)  Teacher A’s students have computers at home.   Teacher B’s don’t.   The test is on a computer.  Which set of students have the advantage here?

5)  The majority of Teacher A’s students came already at standard and she must close the gap from 85% to 100% meeting standard by the big “TEST” date.  Whereas, Teacher B must move her children from 20% to 100% in the same time period.

Anyone catching the drift here…..?

Looney Tunes 7

What school would you like to teach in, if you knew your teacher evaluation… how “good” of a teacher you are… was based on this big “TEST”?

Scores are published after SBAC, the big “TEST”.   Let’s just have some fun with some hypotheticals.  Shall we?

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, all children shall be at 100% on the big “TEST” or the teacher and the school are deemed a failure.   ALL children must achieve the same standards at the same time…. and 100% shall do so… “or else”!

Teacher A’s scores come back and 95% of her students scored proficient or above.   (A level 3 or 4)  An increase of 10%.

Teacher B’s scores come back and 55% of her students scored proficient or above. (A level 3 or 4) An increase of 35%.

What’s published in the newspaper?

Teacher A’s class/school rocks the big “TEST” with 95% of their students meeting standard or above. Yahoo!

Cheer!  Clap!  Amazing School!  Amazing Teachers!  Wow!

What a school!  Parents declare, “I want my kid to go to this school!”




Teacher B’s class/school is considered a complete failure.   The big “TEST” showed only 55% of the students were able to meet the standard.   This school is now put on “steps”.  They are given a probation year.  Eventually, the state comes in and overtakes the school, sometimes firing the whole staff, and replacing them with “better” teachers.

Or… of course… A charter school down the road can spring up, utilizing tax dollars, and experiment with the children… it  doesn’t matter that most of them close down eventually… but what the heck… keep giving it a try… see the tremendous “success” rate (here).

Looney Tunes 3The “or else”…..  the data from the big “TEST” (SBAC) is what is used to determine the success or failure of a school.   The 8-9 year olds have one day of testing on a computer in reading, one day in math, out of 180 days of school….  and this is how we measure a school’s success or failure?

Let’s put a microscope on this….

1)  According to the No Child Left Behind Act, BOTH schools are in failure.  Yep.  You did hear this right.   According to the No Child Left Behind Act all schools were to have ALL of their students to standard, 100% of them, by 2014.

2)  So….. Teacher A moved his/her children from 85% meeting standard to 95% meeting standard… and…  Teacher B moved his/her children from 20% to 55% meeting the standard.

May I stop and ask you to reread the conditions in Teacher B’s classroom verse Teacher A’s?

And… may I ask the question again… What gets published in the newspaper?  I forget.

Oh! Yeah… that’s right…

Only the end result.

Does Teacher B get any credit at all for moving 35% of her students to standard that weren’t there before?

So let’s get back to the original point…  Comparing teachers and/or linking a teacher’s evaluation to the big “TEST”…

Makes. No. Sense.

May I suggest another experiment?  Looney Tunes 1

After the scores are published and a teacher’s class scores analyzed for “success” in teaching let’s experiment:  The following year the two teachers swap classrooms.  Teacher A comes to Teacher B’s school.   Teacher B gets to teach at Teacher A’s school.

Can you predict what the scores will show?   Will Teacher A come to the 90% plus poverty school and raise the 20% meeting standard to the 95% she got before?   Will teacher B show incredible growth in his/her teaching ability because last year he/she had 55% of her students meeting standard and now he/she magically has 95% meeting standard?

The Tale of Two Teachers…

Let’s follow their paths.   Each year they swap schools.   Each year we look at the scores on the big “TEST”.   What will we find out?

The Finnish Swap

Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg is one of the world’s leading experts on school reform and the author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?”

He had the same idea about the teacher swap…  Let’s take Finnish teachers and bring them to the United States and let’s take United States teachers and  bring them to Finland and let them teach for five years.  What Pasi Sahlbert reveals may be quite surprising… In a five year time span, he says the United States teachers would be flourishing, where as the Finnish teachers most likely would quit before the five years were up…

Hmmm… I wonder why?

Read the article to find out (here).

A side note on National Board Certification:

In Washington State the legislatures approved paying National Board Certified Teachers a bonus of $5,090 and an additional $5,000 bonus if they would go to work in a high poverty school.  (70% or higher free/reduced lunch count)  This means they are paying an annual $10,090 bonus to attract “highly qualified” teachers to these schools.  I have devoted myself to high poverty schools for most of my career.  I just transferred to my current school in October which was given an F rating by the state of Washington.  Every classroom looks just like Teacher B’s.  What would draw a teacher to teach in a school with high poverty?  Ever think about this?

I have.

And I know the answer.







When the SBAC scores come back after Spring of 2015, our first official year, I am pretty sure my school will be deemed a low performing school because the majority of the students will not meet the standard.  Especially after knowing the SBAC cut scores were set on November 17, 2014, in Washington State… for approximately 70% of our students to fail.  Just as Pasi Sahlbert reveals, there are outside factors that influence student performance… “small” things like, hmmmmmm…. let’s say poverty?

I know this…  Incredible teachers teach in my school.  Teachers with solid instructional practice.

Who could possibly think the SBAC is an accurate measure a teacher’s abilities?

I wonder some days if the $5,000 additional dollars is worth it?  There are a good many NBCTs in my building.  It is interesting to consider how many are asking if the additional bonus is worth it?  Does the state of Washington want to push us outside the door?  Anyone of us could apply for a transfer and teach in a more affluent school.  Imagine… having the majority of students walking in the door already at standard from the previous year, and ready to learn… and… according to the big, one day, high-stakes “TEST”,  the scores in this affluent classroom will supposedly show how much better of a teacher I am? Looney Tunes 4

Are ya kiddin’ me?

Looney Tunes.

Let’s put the big “TEST” itself under the microscope:

Who else is asking if the test items are appropriate and measure the Common Core Standards?  Who says this test is valid and reliable?  Not this (study).  Even SBAC admits they don’t know if its a valid measure of college readiness. Is this test developmentally appropriate?  Eight and nine year olds just learning to type are put on a computer and asked to explain their reasoning and write comparison analysis of text?


Yet some of our legislators and billionaire business men seem to think the big “TEST” will show who is teaching well and who isn’t.


We would do well to learn some lessons from Finland.

Let’s expose this story of “The Tale of Two Teachers” and the idea of the teacher swap to anyone who thinks a teacher’s value can be based on a standardized test.

Can we put to rest once and for all that there are factors in our beautiful children, rich and poor, that affect their performance and come to us with varying degrees of understanding for various reasons?

One test, on one day, will never show how good of a teacher I am.  Especially a “TEST” like the SBAC.  I am convinced this test is not a valid or reliable measure of student success, nor am I convinced it can accurately measure the quality of a teacher.

Looney Tunes 6



Fire is Catching

12 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Teachers… Comparing Teachers based on High Stakes Test… Lunacy

  1. What a great illustration of the injustice of basing teacher evaluations on student tests. Clearly, having accurate information about teachers’ effectiveness is not the goal.

    Thank you for speaking out!


  2. Sing it sister!
    My classroom is much like teacher B’s. I would need to add that two are homeless and two have a parent in prison for horrendous crimes. On Mondays I’m trying to calm and regroup them from their traumatic weekends and by Friday trying to motivate them to make it back on Monday.

    I get so tired of friends and family members as well as members of our government’s political system telling me how easy I have it, that unions are what’s wrong with our public education system, that saying “under God” in the morning pledge will fix everything that’s wrong with the education system, or that teachers should be armed because of our gun free zones, and completely unaware of the gaping wound in our schools. No one has ever asked me what the issues are but the o my bandaid I can actually apply is the SBAC test in the spring.

    I work with kids who need me. Those kids who need an extra mom to push them a little bit more each day. Those kids who have no one who believes in them. You can’t measure that on a test.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You really make it seem so easy along with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really one thing which I think I’d
    by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very broad for me.

    I’m taking a look ahead on your next submit, I will try to get the dangle
    of it!


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