It’s no real surprise that high stakes testing drives staffing practices in our state’s schools. Now, however, there’s evidence to support this widely-suspected claim.
Researchers examining 10 years worth of state data through 2016 found that low-performing teachers in grades 3 through 5 were more likely to be reassigned to non-tested early grades than their more effective peers.
The findings, released Friday by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance and Vanderbilt University, may be an important piece of the puzzle in figuring out why almost two-thirds of the state’s students are behind on reading by the end of the third grade.
The Tennessee research lines up with similar research on high-stakes accountability systems based on tests in other states:
But research elsewhere has shown that the pressures of such accountability systems for higher elementary grades can unintentionally give administrators incentives to “staff to the test” and move their weakest teachers to the early years.
The research is based on data from teacher observations and student achievement scores (TVAAS). I’ve written before about the problems with using value-added data to accurately assess teacher quality. Unfortunately, those problems have yet to stop Tennessee from marching down this misguided path.
That said, let’s look at the impact of a policy where one test, TNReady, drives much of our practice. Principals are heavily incentivized to move low-performing teachers to grades and subjects that are not tested. We now have solid data suggesting that’s actually happening in Tennessee schools. The unintended consequence of a policy that relies on a single test to determine the value of a teacher, student, and school is that students end up being poorly served.
Oh, and of course, the test used to drive all this policy is TNReady. You know, that test our state STILL can’t get right despite trying really hard year after year?
Bad policy drives bad practice which is bad for kids.
We’ve known this for some time now…will any of our policymakers move to change it?
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