Saturday, March 16, 2013

Testing Teachers: Arts and Technology Integration

This week I was invited to participate in a state panel examining which test Nebraska should use as one of the criteria for certification. Teacher testing has become very popular across the states with encouragement from the office of education. There is very little evidence that such tests are connected in any way to teacher quality. For example in a recent report Angrist and Guryan (2013) say: "The results suggest that state-mandated teacher testing increases teacher wages with no corresponding increase in quality." The tests, however, are apparently here to stay and even Nebraska usually one of the last holdouts on testing has decided to cave in.

Nebraska has chosen to work with ETS and our task at the panels was to review from a selection of tests and make a recommendation about which tests are most appropriate and what should a cutoff score be. One of the more relevant options we considered was the Parxis II with emphasis on pedagogical decision making. As we read through the items (which I cannot disclose) I found that quit a few addressed arts integration through theatre, movement and visual art. It was clear that integration ideas were well integrated (at least into the version of the test I saw). 

Technology was mentioned in two items only. The technologies mentioned were: looms and books on tape... There was nothing that incorporated Internet searches, evaluation of Internet resources, reading on screen, or any of the other skills mentioned in our state standards, the common core standards and professional organizations. Now, I know there is no consensus over what exactly do new teachers need to know, but no technology integration, no reference to digital modes of literacy?

We made sure our concern registered. I worry because tests (even marginally reliable ones) cause some educators to "reverse engineer" their curriculum. We need more about technology integration in our pre-service programs not less. As for the tests, they need to adapt quickly to these changes to stay relevant.

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