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Test scores don't reflect teachers

July 29, 2009

Re "Schools face new loss of funds," July 24

This is a ridiculous idea. Teachers can and should be evaluated, but not based on student test scores.

If you go to the doctor and he tells you to eat certain foods, engage in some exercise and take a specific medication, and you do none of those things and subsequently don't get any healthier, does that mean he or she was not a good doctor?

If I am a personal trainer and my client shows up five days a week but refuses to participate in any of the exercises I prescribe, won't act on my instructions and then doesn't lose weight or gain muscle mass -- does it mean I am a bad personal trainer?

Let's not forget that the students themselves have a responsibility in regard to their education and success -- it's not just about having "a good teacher."

Charles T. Kelly

Aliso Viejo

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When I hear someone, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, saying that state tests should be used to decide which teachers are effective and which aren't, I always have the same reply:

That's fine as long as my class is made up of students who read and write at grade level, understand math at grade level, are fluent in English, come from a family that actively supports that child's dedication to academics, come to school after having a good night's sleep and a nutritious breakfast and have no learning disabilities or major behavioral issues.

Unfortunately, in an average class of 30 students, I would estimate that five of them would meet those criteria.

Susan Sherman

Covina

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The state of California was right to bar school districts from using test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

We, as teachers, are not in complete control of the outcome of tests taken by the children.

We have students who qualify for special services but whose parents decline the services. These children struggle in the mainstream classroom. Though parents are entitled to their rights, the child's test scores suffer. Another group under the radar are those children who have excessive absences. In the last few years, I have had several students who were absent in excess of 20 days -- the equivalent of four weeks of school.

Here's a thought: Let's not make data the cornerstone of our education system.

Carol Tensen

Burbank

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Teachers simply do not have enough power, influence or control over their students to make test scores a valid measure of teacher effectiveness.

For 14 years, I taught in a school serving students whose families languished at the bottom of the socioeconomic barrel. Gangs and other social ills plagued the neighborhood. During that time, I became a "master teacher," learning and implementing state-of-the-art educational practices in my classroom. Yet standardized test scores remained agonizingly low, despite some gains.

When I transferred to another school, serving students whose family incomes were much higher and whose neighborhood was clean and safe, magic happened. My students' average test scores were nearly triple those of the students at the other school.

Obviously, I had become three times as good a teacher -- overnight.

Robin Winston

Culver City

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