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The Debate Over Testing And Teacher Performance

Controversial testing that took place in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last week is not on the agenda of Tuesday night's school board meeting. But the issue will likely be prevalent. Many teachers, parents and students have said they plan to attend the meeting and make their concerns known about tests students in all grades had to take. Last week's tests were trial-runs. CMS administered them to get the information the district needs to develop tests that will be used to measure teacher effectiveness. It's all part of Superintendent Peter Gorman's plan to pay teachers based on classroom performance by 2014. Some of that debate played out today on WFAE's Charlotte Talks. "We don't believe that these tests can fairly and accurately evaluate a teacher's performance," said Carol Sawyer of Mecklenburg ACTS. "I think there's flaws in the way that tests are constructed, and we're concerned that a high-stakes test in every subject in every grade level will actually discourage good and creative teaching because everyone will be focused on meeting the standards of these high-stakes tests." Sawyer says about 1,700 people have signed a petition that calls on CMS not to use standardized tests to judge teacher performance. Andy Baxter, director of Center for Human Capital Strategies at CMS, says it'll be a few years before tests are used for that purpose. He says the tests given today serve another objective. "The No. 1 reason that we're giving them is that right now we have the ability in only 10 percent of our classes to be able to assess whether the students have met the content objectives of the course," Baxter said. "We've got to do better than that. We've got to be able to say that the students at Providence Spring in second-grade social studies are getting the instruction that is required by the state in the same way that students are getting that instruction at a school (such as) Irwin Avenue." You can listen to that entire conversation on standardized testing and teacher performance tonight at 9 when Charlotte Talks is rebroadcast. You can also download the program on our web site.