John Oliver recently took on the issue of standardized testing and it sounds like he’s been reading Tennessee Education Report. In 18 brilliant minutes, he hits on a number of topics covered here time and again.
Oliver discussed teacher merit pay, the recruiting tactics of testing companies, value-added assessment, and testing transparency.
Back in 2013, Tennessee’s State Board of Education moved toward merit pay based on value-added data.
This year, while adding nearly $100 million to the pot for teacher compensation, Governor Haslam continued a push for merit pay.
While Oliver noted that Pearson recruits test scorers on Craigslist, Tennessee’s new testing vendor, Measurement, Inc. uses the same practice.
And of course, there’s the issue of value-added assessment — in Tennessee, called TVAAS. While it yields some interesting information, it’s not a reliable predictor of teacher performance and it’s going to be even more unreliable going forward, due to the shift from TCAP to TNReady. Here’s what we’ve learned from TVAAS in Tennessee:
In fact, this analysis demonstrates that the difference between a value-added identified “great” teacher and a value-added identified “average” teacher is about $300 in earnings per year per student. So, not that much at all. Statistically speaking, we’d call that insignificant. That’s not to say that teachers don’t impact students. It IS to say that TVAAS data tells us very little about HOW teachers impact students.
Surprisingly, Tennessee has spent roughly $326 million on TVAAS and attendant assessment over the past 20 years. That’s $16 million a year on a system that is not yielding much useful information.
And then there’s testing transparency. Oliver points out that it’s difficult if not impossible to get access to the actual test questions. In fact, Tennessee’s testing vendor, Measurement, Inc., has a contract with Utah’s testing vendor that involves a fine if test questions are revealed — $5000 per question:
The contract further notes that any release of the questions either by accident or as required by law, will result in a fee of $5000 per test item released. That means if Tennessee wants to release a bank of questions generated from the Utah test and used for Tennessee’s assessment, the state would pay $5000 per question.
Here’s the clip from John Oliver:
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