In my current position, I am responsible for recruiting and hiring new faculty. The unique nature of our school results in multiple hiring periods and upwards of 50 new teachers hired annually. To find those new instructors, I review thousands of resumes, interview hundreds of candidates, and make dozens of offers. It’s a charge I take willingly, seriously, and with great vigor. There is no better feeling than meeting scores of great educators and listening to them brag (rightfully so) about their best practices.
Recently, however, I’ve noted the growing and troubling trend of applicants bragging about the gains in test scores that their students have achieved as a result of their teaching practice. Touting test scores is a complete non-starter for me, and I think it should be for all charged with the same mission. There are three reasons why:
1. Technology may be able to raise test scores better and cheaper than we can. What a teacher may need weeks to diagnose, systems like Knewton can do in a matter of minutes, and yes it will result in better test scores. Of course, what technologies can’t do — provide encouragement, call a concerned mother, deconstruct and reconstruct thinking patterns, and write recommendations — are exactly what make teachers special. They are but a small sample of the value a dedicated educator can bring to students’ lives. which is why when I read a resume that sells the author with test scores, I can’t help but wonder why they reduce their value to the least common denominator.
2.Because we care about every student, the “great” test scores the majority of them earn will always be offset by the minority who did not. Because No Child Left Behind is part of our soul and not just a catchphrase, we won’t be satisfied until ALL of our students score well on their tests, a lofty goal whose ideal outpaces its reality. As a result, we spend our time chasing data, doing whatever we can to reduce the minority to zero instead of focusing on providing value, regardless of test scores.
3. Ask a teacher friend of yours who teaches in a test-centric school how inspiring their job is. Ask them what it’s like to teach the same lesson, read the same script and grade the same assessments as every other teacher in the district they reside. Ask them how much joy they feel when they interrupt their classes to bring students to a “test prep rally,” or when they are required to include sample test questions in all of their assessments. Ask them what it is like to have their professional instincts questioned and their years of experience tossed aside in lieu of new programming designed to raise test scores. Even if these programs increase test scores, they turn our teachers into technicians and destroy their souls along the way.
Most troubling about this trend is that I see more young applicants selling the improvements in the test scores their students have made. Rarely do I see this in the resumes of more seasoned educators. The trend of more younger, test-touting teachers may signal a concerning shift toward a generation of teachers who equate high test scores with being a professional educator, teachers who measure their value by a change in test scores and not in the difference they make in the lives of children.
Tony Baldasaro is the chief human resource officer of Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in New Hampshire. Having been a teacher, a building administrator, a district-level administrator and now a statewide charter-school administrator, Baldasaro has come to strongly believe that education needs to provide multiple pathways and opportunities for students, that there is no one path to learning. Hence, he spends much of his professional time advocating for use of multiple pathways for students. In addition to writing here, he blogs regularly at TonyBaldasaro.com.