How does value-added measure death?

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via: Ashtabula Star Beacon

Bureaucrats who have not been inside the walls of a K-12 classroom, since graduating from high school, want to measure teachers by how well their students fare on standardized tests. Some states are already firing teachers, based on this illogical system.

I would like to ask people like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, so-called reformers Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and even President Obama how they measure teachers.

What I know is that a few weeks ago, a student walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School in Ohio, pulled a gun and shot three students to death. In the aftermath, this proud, quiet town and all of the Greater Cleveland area mourned. Yet talk of testing and value-added continued.

Students at my school, about 15 miles west of Chardon, wore the high school’s colors and spoke somberly of the tragedy. The Cleveland Cavaliers paid tribute to the fallen students and their community at a home game that week. Chardon teachers tweeted about how proud they were of their students’ courage, when they returned to school days later. Still, teachers and students planned for the test, so some bureaucrat can judge how much value has been added to learning.

And now, as I write about this unfathomable event, I weep awkwardly, considering what it all means. Yet my contemplation is interrupted by e-mails about the test and what we can do to get more students to pass — to increase their value-added scores, whatever that means.

Later this school year, along with all Ohio students, Chardon kids will sit for this insidious test. Is it fair to hope that they’ll be completely focused for 150 minutes? What if their minds drift to their slain friends? Will they wonder if anything so horrible could ever happen again? How important will math and science problems be on that day?

And if those students struggle on this crazy, one-day, all-or-nothing assessment, their teachers — the ones who the Chardon students looked to first for support and protection in their greatest moment of need — will also fail, according to Obama, Duncan and their sad rating system.

When that time arrives, what I’d like to know is how does the value-added system measure death?

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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