alfie kohn, merit pay, testing

Yes They Grew But Can I Take Credit For It?

We are in the midst of testing season at my school.  The students are doing MAP tests, as well as their writing assessments and we gather to discuss the results, to think of strategies.  To rank, to sort, to file.  To highlight, to shine a light, and to discuss what is working and what isn’t.  We pat some teachers on the back – look at that growth, and we wonder what else we can do.  We wonder if merit pay is on the horizon and how we will be ranked, filed, and sorted.  That will be based on these test results on those students gains or losses and yet, can we really take credit for the gains that our students may have made?  Can those test results really be accredited to the teacher?

I often wonder how much growth my students do on their own?  How their brain creates new connections, new ideas, and new strategies for conquering the learning we do?  How much of that growth can be attributed to their parents or home environment rather than the school?  How many of those new connections can really be chalked up to their natural development as a growing child who all of a sudden gets it more?  Or even how much of their growth should be attributed to their first teachers, perhaps in daycare, pre-school or kindergarten?  Those teachers set the foundation, taught those students that school was safe and an environment they could continue their learning in.  Can I take credit for any of the growth shown a piece of paper?  I don’t know.

5 thoughts on “Yes They Grew But Can I Take Credit For It?”

  1. Hey Pernille, a better question is does the growth on a piece of paper matter at all? How much is learned from a 2-hour multiple choice test? What if the students guess? What if they suffer from test anxiety? What if they see no value in it, so they tank? What if measuring is just plain wrong?

  2. Hi Mark,I actually disagree with you here, I don't think that is a better question because it is irrelevant to the conversation here. I am mandated by my district to test these students using certain measures, and while I disagree with these tests, I still have to do them and then be measured on them. I therefore do think it is more interesting conversation to look at it within the testing realm as far as whether those results can really be attributed to me as a teacher or belong to others? Of course all of your points are valid but I function under the system as I have to. Of course the students do not learn anything from taken the test, that is not the point, they are being measured (supposedly) on what they know. Thank you for bringing up this point, it was interesting to contemplate.

  3. I love your response to Mark, because you put my thoughts into words. My students and I have to function in the system as it is for now, whether it is a great system or not.I have often wondered a lot of the same things as you. Why do some students show big gains, while others make losses, when they sat in the same room at the same time with me for months? Can that really be me? I don't know either.

  4. I have trouble with this because, although I would love to take credit for my students' achievements I don't think these standardized tests are an accurate measure of that. I have taught in different kinds of communities and am the same teacher, but students who come from homes whe they are given breakfast before they go to school and are not expected to care for siblings after school did better on these tests. I think we have to look at the whole child and make sure each child is getting what s/he needs.Another thing that troubles me about using testing to rate teachers is that those teacher who are gifted when it comes to working with students who have learning challenges may feel pressured into requesting fewer of these students in their classes if they feel worried that kids with learning challenges might "mess up" their own rating b/c of their difficulty with standardized testing. I think the testing discussions are distracting from the real problem of poverty and inadequate access and support.Thanks for posing the question. I appreciate the thoughtful nature of your blog!

  5. Of course you can take some credit. If you can't then you haven't done you job as a 'teacher'. You can't take it all but you definitely played a major role. Again, if not then you haven't done you job. I don't, however, think the opposite is true. If a student performs poorly, you are not necessarily to blame. You could be to blame of course, but as you say some students just don't have an equal chance and bring a lot of baggage. Then again, even with those students you play a major role. I get what you are say – the students deserve a lot of credit. I give you and them that, but so do you. It's our job as teachers to make a difference.

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