The “Get Schooled” blog at the AJC has posted a letter written by a middle Georgia teacher decrying the wasted time (up to 20 days!) spent on the new “Student Learning Objectives” (SLOs).
The state has a lengthy response to Maureen Downey’s request for a comment, which is followed by a very cogent letter to State Superintendent John Barge from a group of Chamblee High School teachers.
Dear Superintendent Barge,
As teachers dedicated to our mission of educating young people, we have grave concerns about the current plans for the SLO tests. As currently structured and implemented, we are unwilling to administer the SLO tests for the following reasons:
1. The pre-test takes valuable class time away from learning, for a test that the students know they will do poorly on, and that they have no reason to even try to do well on.
2. Since the tests have not been prepared in a timely manner, we can not pretend we are administrating a test of “pre-knowledge” when students have been learning for over a month.
3. Since teachers will be evaluated on improvement, teachers also have no interest in the students performing well on the pre-test. Wishing for our students to do poorly runs counter to our ethical and professional standards. We refuse to bet against our students.
4. The students have no reason to do well on the post-test, given that it is not part of their grade or any other sort of personal evaluation. Again, teachers will be evaluated on a test for which the students have little or no motivation.
There are also many practical difficulties with current plans to administer the SLO tests.
5. The tests require an unreasonable amount of teacher time spent on printing, grading and scanning. For one teacher with 160 students, some tests require more than 700 pages to be printed, graded, and scanned. Every teacher in the system with tests is going to have to find the time, find the resources, and learn to administer tests and record the grades under a regimen that will be going away after one use, if we understand correctly. SLOs require an enormous outlay of material resources (paper, toner, equipment usage) that we simply do not have, and of teacher time that could be better spent helping to our students.
6. The short answer portions of the SLOs require teachers to grade subjectively, even with the provided rubric. Teachers will be inclined to grade for the benefit of the teacher rather than for the student. Grading for learning will not occur on the SLOs. Further, if our job performance is to be judged on test grades, it is illogical to do any form of subjective grading.
7. While we understand that test integrity is incredibly important, current plans are ridiculously onerous for teachers and administrators. For a test on which the students have no incentive to cheat, and one where the students will already have seen the questions when they come to take the post-test, the labor involved seems unnecessary and wasteful.
As teachers, we must believe that classroom activities and content add value to our students’ learning, as well as to their futures. We believe the SLO tests as they currently exist do not meet this ethical and professional standard. With increased class sizes, reduced support staff, and reduced administrative staff, teachers’ work loads have grown significantly. All teacher work time must be efficiently utilized and contribute directly to student success. Administering the SLOs, which are only intended to measure the teacher’s effectiveness, directly conflicts with the teacher’s need to only accomplish value-added teaching tasks.
The more time spent by teachers on measuring their own effectiveness, the less effective the teachers become. We have no fear of being evaluated. But a fair evaluation system should be embedded in the system without becoming an additional burden to the system.
Chamblee Charter High School teachers James Demer, Andrew Milne, Shervette Miller, Deann Peterson, and Amy Branca. In addition, this letter is supported by more than 50 additional Chamblee teachers.
Additionally, we are pleased to report that in spite of all of the budget cuts, class size increases and administrative distractions, teachers and students of DeKalb were able to increase SAT test scores to beyond state averages!