Should Teachers be Tested?
August 25, 2001 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Should Teachers be Tested? In Ontario there is a power struggle between the provincial government and the teachers union over whether teachers should be subjected to testing to ensure they are current on their subject knowledge. Personally, I have enjoyed every ironic complaint of the teachers that testing is unfair. It seems to me that they are failing the test before even taking it when they implicitly claim that testing is good for the students but bad for them. What do you think?
posted by srboisvert (15 comments total)
I guess it would depend on the consequences. What happens if a teacher fails the test?
posted by Orion at 3:47 PM on August 25, 2001

If a teacher fails the test in the subject they are teaching, they are not qualified to teach that subject. End of story.

Obviously, you don't want to put their years of experience and their job on the line on one test but with adequate safeguards, this sounds like a great idea. Purging schools of unknowledgable teachers is a good start in improving education in this country.
posted by Witold at 3:55 PM on August 25, 2001

Will this be a forced, universal testing scheme (as I would expect from Canada), or will each school be allowed to set its own standards here?

(I'm assuming private schools, at least, test their teachers already)
posted by dagny at 4:04 PM on August 25, 2001

"Purging schools of unknowledgable teachers is a good start ..."

I don't think that purging the schools of teachers is the goal. Rather, I suspect the goal is to bring all teachers up to a certain educational standard. That's why I asked, what happens if a teacher fails the test?
posted by Orion at 4:13 PM on August 25, 2001

The fact that there is a shortage of teachers in many places is lamentable. However, the fact remains that many people should not be teachers, for a variety of reasons. And ferretting out those who should be disqualified due to their sheer ignorance strikes me as a good starting point.
posted by rushmc at 5:41 PM on August 25, 2001

In Ontario one of the opposistion members suggested that if there is teacher testing then there should be testing of politicians as well. I think that's a great idea but none of the tories would go for that in a million years i bet.

How about it, teacher and politician testing, but a politician that tests poorly should be allowed to keep their job as long as the scores are public and the public elects them.
posted by bobo123 at 5:50 PM on August 25, 2001

it's fair, and i think a similar test is needed for university and college professors. some of mine are so inadequate in their communication skills, although they're very knowledgeable in their respective fields, that knowledge is lost in transport. and unfortunately, we as students have to pay for that.
posted by dai at 6:09 PM on August 25, 2001

If a student fails a test we do not kick them out of school. We shouldn't do that to our teachers either. I think Orion is making a very good point. I would like to see some options for a teacher that would fail the test. Most of the problems with the K-12 education system that I have seen (working with an educational non-profit) have more to do with communication/dissemination of the material then they do with the teacher not knowing the subject matter.
posted by brian at 6:24 PM on August 25, 2001

Of course there ought to be testing for teachers... and while they're at it, perhaps doctors could be added to the list!

In fact, every public service position where the competencies of employees are critical to the quality of the public service being provided deserves to be filled by an individual who has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate those competencies.

Proficiency / competency testing is the only way to objectively assess this. Bring it on, it's high time public servants are accountable.

Oh, and by the way, I'm a proud public servant myself.
posted by lairdj at 7:36 PM on August 25, 2001

sorry... one other point. It's not about axing those who underperform - it's about providing the tools necessary to those individuals in order that they can develop their skills (ie. performance management) so that ultimately, in the case of teachers, the kids benefit.
posted by lairdj at 7:39 PM on August 25, 2001

When I was in high school I had a unique opportunity. A tester testing bill had recently passed in my state and in the midst of this I changed schools. School #1 considered this an insult to ther intelligence. After all they had graduated college and been teaching for a number of years! School #2 was TERRIFIED. They had workshops for the teachers on how to pass the blasted test.

I think the point here is that some teachers had better fear testing. These same teachers should not be out there in front of a classroom. Some teachers on the other hand should be rewarded for thier excellent service.

My personal theory is that some of the problems in education today are the result of certain problems relating to the baby boom. A large number of teachers were needed, so warm bodies were put in classrooms. The second problem is that a number of questionable teaching methods (such as whole word reading and "new math") were implemented without sufficient research into thier effectiveness. But that last paragraph is a bit off topic.
posted by ilsa at 10:27 PM on August 25, 2001

<drunk> I thought this thread was about drug testing in teachers and thats why I was going to comment, but as it seems this thread isn't about that topic I will refrain from commenting. </drunk>
posted by bytecode at 10:50 PM on August 25, 2001

Ok, as someone who works with teachers day in and day out I can see both sides to the story. The really good teachers allready spend their summer "vacations" in graduate school and in workshops improving both their teaching skills and their subject area knowledge so I can see why they would resist having to jump through additional hoops. In addition I think that teachers have a good reason to distrust the government pinheads writing the tests because the pinheads know exactly squat about what goes on in the classroom. And of course, in most cases the certification will come out of the same budget that buys the classroom supplies, the teacher's own paychecks.

I also don't know anyone with a clue who particularly likes the mandate for standardized testing of students much less standardized testing of teachers. The Alpha and Omega of standardized testing is filling in the boxes on the scanned sheet. I've seen far to many people who scored great on the standardized test but consistently flunked the real life tests.

But the Ontario proposal seems quite good. It would be much better if the government was willing to foot the bill for teacher professional development, continuing education and evaluation. In addition portfolio assessment and classroom observation would be better indicators of teaching than testing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:09 PM on August 25, 2001

I know a few teachers and I know exactly how hard they work - testing them is just going to be more unnecessary stress. It's easy to spot a teacher who doesn't know their stuff. At high school we had a teacher who couldn't teach, so we told the deputy head to come and watch one of our lessons. His contract wasn't renewed the next year. Teachers are tested every day in the classroom by the kids they teach.
posted by creeky at 3:26 AM on August 26, 2001

Lairdj-Doctors already ARE tested. Not just once, they have to take the tests every so often to keep their license(or maybe it's just certification). My father was a doctor, and I remember him boning up for his tests even though he had been practicing medicine for twenty years.

As for teacher testing, I think in class observation gives you a better idea than a test. I had an awful teacher in high school for algebra II. Although he clearly understood math, he COULD NOT TEACH. He would just put problems up on the board and expect us to magically know what to do. It was not until a number of complaints were lodged that administration finally visited the class, and he was (after three years of employment) finally dismissed.

If standardized testing were instituted, it should be part of a larger evaluation involving portfolios and observation.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2001

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