Taking tests too far

High-stakes tests are useful in a lot of ways. This isn't one of them. According to the Palm Beach Post, several of Florida's previously fired teachers are being reinstated after an appellate court found that their students' test scores were not factored into the dismissals. A state law requires that student performance be part of any teacher evaluation. Legislators say that the law's intent is not to stop administrators from firing instructors they judge to be lousy, but to empower them to remove teachers who aren't delivering strong achievement results. Nevertheless, Bruce Belzer, a former second-grade teacher who was dismissed in 2005 for poor classroom performance, was recently rehired and given $168,000 in back pay because his students' test scores were decent. Consider: If a fourth-grade math instructor is unhinged, if his class is a wreck and rife with discipline problems, if observation has shown him to be irresponsible and irrepressible, then he should be let go. Principals must have autonomy in their schools, and one standardized test shouldn't trump their human-resources judgment. And to be fair, neither should a teacher be fired just because of lousy test score results. Student achievement data should be one factor in a teacher's evaluation--but not the only factor.

"FCAT tosses teachers lifeline," by Christina DeNardo, Palm Beach Post, February 11, 2008

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