by Brian Washington
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Connecticut educator Susan Sumberg, a first grade teacher in the Bloomfield school district, believes it is impossible to evaluate a teacher based on one moment in time when a student takes a high-stakes test.
“We (educators) believe that state testing is a moment in time, a snapshot,” said Sumberg, a 30-year veteran teacher. “It is not an overall picture of what is going on with a child throughout their education, throughout their year.”
The State Board of Education agrees with Sumberg. In fact, it recently approved new guidelines that prevent student test scores from the state-mandated mastery test from being used in evaluating educators.
There are many other ways to assess children that can change instruction and how we deliver instruction to help students,” said Sumberg. “So this is good.
The board’s action comes after Sumberg and several other educators testified in favor of the state adopting the new guidelines. During her testimony, she talked about the need for more authentic student assessments and lauded praise on the system implemented in her home district.
“I’m passionate about the evaluation system we created in Bloomfield because teachers and administrators worked together to build it from the ground up in order to promote teachers’ growth,” said Sumberg, who is president of the Bloomfield Education Association, which represents about 200 of the town’s educators.
“We wanted an evaluation system that would put students first and be meaningful and purposeful to everyone involved—not simply an exercise in compliance.”
Sumberg points out there are good uses for mastery test scores. She adds the new guidelines, which come from the state’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), made up of educators and other public education stakeholders, point out some of them including using the test scores to inform goals for individual educators, develop curriculum, and evaluate programs.
“You can use them to look at and identify trends,” said Sumberg. “But if I wanted to look at a student in my class to see what’s going on, I am not going to get that type of information. I just feel there are many other ways of assessing children that are more meaningful.”
She adds the first step in developing meaningful student assessments–whether it’s for a local school district or an entire state–is to recognize that the process begins with the educator in the front of the classroom who knows each child’s name and understands their needs.
“On a day-to-day basis, it starts with the student in front of you–looking at what you need to do to adjust instruction to make that child successful,” said Sumberg, who also expressed her hopes for the state’s children under these new guidelines.
“I am hoping we now look at the whole child and all our children’s needs on an ongoing basis.”