The call for education reform was clamorous as thousands gathered at the Hilton New York for the annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning, the “world’s fair of education,” held March 16 and 17.
Presented by THIRTEEN and WNET, and co-sponsored by Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), among other supporters, the two-day conference featured prominent stakeholders in education nationwide.
Chelsea Clinton, a special correspondent for NBC and former First Daughter, moderated a panel at the close of Friday’s session. The panelists reacted to the Gates Foundation and Scholastic’s survey Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, which surveyed 10,212 pre-K through 12th grade teachers on current policies on teacher evaluation.
According to the report, teachers generally agree that measuring student success and, by extension, teacher success, is critical.
However, such evaluation is too complex to be recorded by any one type of measurement, such as standardized test scores. Only 26 percent of teachers considered standardized tests an accurate reflection of student achievement.
“Students don’t see that one day as any more important than the other 180 days, maybe even less important, because there’s less activity,” said Cate Dosetti, a high school teacher in Fresno, CA. “And tests are limited in what they cover—what can be known, what can be taught, and what can be tested.”
Moreover, standardized tests are inconsistent with other trends in education.
“We’ve all seen lists of 21st century skills—collaboration, critical thinking, innovation, creativity—things that will move our nation forward as being competitive and fulfilling,” said Charlotte Danielson, internationally recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness. “Not a single one of those can be assessed on a multiple choice test.”
Given the increasing weight placed on student scores when measuring teacher effectiveness, in addition to the recent move to publish teacher evaluations in newspapers, Danielson stressed that it is critical to agree on the issue of teacher evaluation.
“There’s no statistical method to sort out test scores. If students in my class do well, is it because of my methods? Or was it the reading specialist down the hall? Or the teacher the year before?” she said. “Until we solve that problem, I think we ought to hold off on high-stakes decisions.”
Earlier in the day, Jane Stoddard Williams, the host and producer of Bloomberg EDU, moderated a session on drawing comments from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. The summit periodically gathers Education Ministers and national teacher union leaders from more than 20 countries to discuss the state of education globally.
Panelist Linda Darling-Hammond, Ph.D., the Charles Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, said that most countries don’t have shortages of teachers.
“The profession is designed and supported to enable people to be extremely well-prepared,” she said.
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, pointed to Finland as one of the best education systems worldwide, with much to offer other education systems.
“They say that their goal was never excellence. It was always equity,” Van Roekel said. “Equity means that it doesn’t matter what school you go to—it’s always high-quality.
“Imagine in America if it didn’t matter where you lived or what school you went to,” he continued. “I think that’s worth fighting for.”
As a sponsor, GSE hosted several workshops over the two-day event, including “Interdisciplinary discourse, writing, and argumentation to promote action-oriented habits of minds,” presented by John Craven, Ph.D., associate professor of science education; Kristen Turner, Ph.D., assistant professor of English education; Rhonda Bondie, Ph.D., associate professor of childhood special education; and Carol Manocchi-Verrino, a sixth grade science teacher at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School.