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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Local teacher explains standardized tests to Mayor Brown

Dear Mayor Brown,

During my long teaching career, I have had the experience of being an excellent teacher, then a terrible teacher and finally now a mediocre teacher. Because of this, I believe I have some good ideas about the use of tests for the purpose of evaluating teachers.

When I taught in a private school in an affluent suburb in the Jacksonville area, most of my students scored above the 70th percentile on standardized tests. To this day I can't believe I did such an outstanding job in my very first year of teaching. The only explanation I have is the probability that I was a naturally gifted teacher. The pay at the school was quite poor, though, and since I was so talented, I thought I deserved the relatively higher salary of a public school. So I applied to an inner city school that had more than an 80% minority student population. At this school my students scored below the 30th percentile. To this day I don't understand how my teaching could have gotten so bad in such a short time.

For the rest of my career, I have taught at a middle- to- low- income school on Jacksonville’s Westside. Most of my students scored between the 30th and 60th percentiles, so you could say that I was a mediocre teacher for most of my tenure.

I think there is much to be learned from my experience. Every teacher can be made "outstanding" by transferring them to an affluent school. So, for example, if "Miss Jones" on the North side of Jacksonville has low-test scores, she can be sent to a Fletcher-like school (or any school east of the intercoastal) for one year to improve. Her students’ test scores will undoubtedly dramatically increase, so she can be certified as "outstanding" and be sent back to the poor school to work her magic. Now she may have to transfer every other year but for at least half the time her kids will have an outstanding teacher.

So yes, I do think test scores should be used to evaluate teachers, but only if they (teachers) can be moved around to see how their scores vary with different groups of students. I am an outstanding teacher, but how can the state allow my scores to be compared to my brother's class (my brother is also a teacher) who teaches at a school in an affluent neighborhood?

Miss Karla Aponte


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