Officials at the New York City Department of Education provided some more information on Tuesday about the potential cost of the up to 16 new tests they are developing to grade teachers.
Instead of spending up to 25 percent of its $256 million in Race to the Top grant winnings to develop the new tests, the city will spend at most $25.6 million, 10 percent, on the tests, officials said on Tuesday. They will spend another $38 million on other aspects of the development of the new principal and teacher evaluation system.
And as a debate over the merits of the tests takes place on our Web site, we also wanted to offer some more information to fuel the discussion. For example, while the tests will count for up to 20 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation, schools will be able to decide how much the tests count for the children who take them. That means the exams may carry the same weight, for example, as a regular classroom assignment, or a unit test, or not at all.
Daniel Koretz, a Harvard University testing expert whose analysis of the state standardized tests in English and math helped lead New York to acknowledge that scores had become inflated through test preparation, has expressed concern about the proposed design of the city’s new tests, because, he says, they are trying to do many things at once. The city wants to use the new tests both to transform and improve instruction and hold the teachers accountable for their students’ performance.
But Jennifer L. Jennings, an assistant professor of sociology at New York University who also studies tests, also raised another issue last week about the proposed design of the exams that we did not get to explore. She expressed concern that giving the test in two parts and judging the teacher on how much improvement is made could influence teacher and principal behavior in an unusual way. “You have a huge incentive to have your kids underperform on the first test,” she said, “and then maximize performance on the second test.”
Some readers have expressed concern that the students in a class might purposely do poorly on a test to punish a teacher they did not like. That concern was shared by Diane Ravitch, an education historian critical of high-stakes standardized testing, who feels such tests “give the students the power to fire their teachers.”
So here are some questions to ponder:
- What other consequences, unintended or otherwise, do you think the tests could have?
- Does their lower cost projection affect your opinion?
- Could they make a positive addition to instruction, by pushing teachers to focus on writing and other higher-order skills?
- If you were a principal or teacher, how much would you recommend the tests count for students?
Feel free to add any additional comments below. For those interested in learning more about the nitty-gritty of the proposal, here is the request for proposals to testing companies issued by Cathleen P. Black when she was schools chancellor. (Let us know if you also want to see the many appendices!)