This blog by Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal Constitution is the most insightful piece I've seen so far on the heartwrenching cheating scandal unfolding in Atlanta. Quoting an extensive interview with Jerry Eads who warns us that the problem is bigger and deeper than just this sad scenarion the article also points us toward thoughtful and effective solutions. Here's a taste:
NCLB and self-seekers (or worse) such as Hall, Augustine, Rhee and Paige didn’t start us down this path. The people who should be taken to task are not just those in the districts and schools who are ethically challenged but the policymakers who initiated minimum competency testing and the egregiously shortsighted “pass or perish” policies more than three decades ago – and those who continued them in the face of the overwhelming evidence that neither low-bid pass-fail testing nor punitive policy has had any positive effect on children’s education.
My Teacher Leader Network colleagues and I heartily agree. As we proposed in our recent book, Teaching 2030, it's past time for teachers to take charge of our profession. We should be establishing and enforcing standards of quality among our own ranks.
At the same time, political and educational leaders at all levels should be paying more attention to the mounting research affirming that there is more to creating a results-oriented teaching profession than overhauling teacher evaluation [important as that is] and judging individual teachers on the basis of how well their students performed on 20th-century standardized tests.
For example, we now know that variations in school conditions may account for 25% of teacher effects on student learning (C.K. Jackson, Match quality, worker productivity, and worker mobility: Direct evidence from teachers. 2010). Add to that the evidence that peer learning among small groups of teachers (not individuals) seems to be the most powerful predictor of student achievement over time, and it becomes clearer that we can find more humane and more effective ways to measure, as well as improve, student learning and teacher performance.