Friday, August 13, 2010

What the Scores Don't Show

In the spirit of the year's beginning when test scores are sure to be a prominent topic of conversation, I wanted to share an article that my step-grandfather-in-law, (if there is such a term), a member of my personal learning network, shared with me.  Jack, an incredibly well-read ex-lawyer, keeps me up with happenings via email that he thinks may be of interest to me, including this New York Times' article entitled "The Case for the $320,000 Kindergarten Teacher".
In the article, Leonhardt describes how Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, is examining the lives of 12,000 students who shared an experimental education experience in the 1980's.  Chetty describes his purpose: "We don't care about test scores.  We care about adult outcomes."  Although his research remains a work in progress, Chetty's initial results reveal a connection between economic success and the effectiveness of one's kindergarten teacher.  Particularly, the older an individual gets, the larger the gap is between an individual with an ineffective kindergarten teacher and one deemed effective.
Clearly, such an experiment has many variables and raises many questions, which Chetty recognizes:  how does the research team define effectiveness?  What other life experiences may have affected these disparities?  In answering these questions, some of Chetty' findings yielded the age-long conclusions that, for example, class size and socioeconomic status possess significant correlations to academic success.  The new and uplifting finding, however, is that despite what test scores may yield in any given school year, some of teachers' effects can be best evidenced in the long run and are more consequential than we may imagine and than our parents and students may realize.
Although I appreciate the author's conclusion that this testifies to the value of education, its need for reform, and to the case "for the $320,000 kindgergarten teacher", I, instead, look at this article as an uplifiting veil through which to examine my test scores this fall.  Though we don't place all our worth as teachers in our exam scores, many of us pour over them and feel a sense of validation or lackthereof as we look at standardized test reports.  Chetty's results, however, encourage teachers to consider the big picture, long-term outcomes of our teaching despite what these scores may seem to show.

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