TeacherMatch sounds like something straight off the cover of the Onion, especially when eyeing up the price tag, but it could be the new reality of the Madison Metropolitan School District. It is enough to make Yente, the matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof, turn green with envy. The Madison Metropolitan School District purports to be stretching its dollars in the upcoming budget cycle, so what guarantees does this $273,000 venture promise?
A Chicago based company, TeacherMatch, claims to use algorithms to predict the effect that a teacher candidate will have on value added student test scores. Whether this is plausible or not, in an era where we are looking at testing bias and social-emotional learning standards, the very definition of a good teacher being measured only by students’ standardized test scores is faulty.
Last week, I was called over to a student’s computer while administering the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. He was doing a reading test, so I was surprised that this talented reader was stuck on a question so early on in his test. I soon found out what was causing the looks of frustration. In order to answer the question, he had to know what was meant by the “Touch of Midas.” This information could not be found in the passage he was being tested on; it wasn’t even hinted at. This was simply a piece of background knowledge the test assumed when asking questions. Of course, I could only encourage the student and remind him to “read carefully,” but it was disheartening, knowing that the answer was not actually there. Am I a less effective teacher, because I hadn’t told my students the story of King Midas? Where exactly can you find King Midas in the Common Core State Standards?
The creators of TeacherMatch have boiled down a teacher’s value to four distinct categories: where the candidate went to college, a candidate’s drive or ability to work through challenges, content knowledge, and teaching skills.
Having attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, a top school in Teacher Education, I feel fairly confident that I’d score okay in this first category. However, most of my tips and tricks as a teacher were picked up from actual classrooms, working with real students in diverse settings or were picked up from my mentor teachers along the way. The University did get me ready for this challenge, but it wasn’t the end of my journey. My grade point average as an undergraduate was 3.84 and as a graduate student my 4.0 remains in tact, but in no way do these numbers indicate my own level of perseverance in obtaining a bachelor’s and a master’s degree as a single parent against incredible odds. Nowhere in these numbers is it obvious that I was once labeled an “at risk” student myself, which is the strongest motivator imaginable. As for testing teacher skills, the best indicator of my effectiveness as a teacher can be found by watching me in a classroom. That is where I shine, no matter what shows up on paper.
Data does not define me as a teacher.
Incomplete or faulty criteria aside, TeacherMatch’s assessment methodologies are also cause for alarm. As a means of arriving at a rating, a candidate must answer 100 questions. Each of the question must be answered within 2 minutes or the score is invalidated. So much for think time!
As a teacher, I have learned that arriving at the truth takes time and follow-up questions, but there is no room for this type of authentic interaction with TeacherMatch. The learners who benefit most from “think time” or extended answer time in my classroom are English Language Learners. For this reason alone, it is obvious that TeacherMatch comes complete with its own testing biases.
Seeing my student teachers interacting with my students gives me a window into who they will become as educators. Talking with teacher candidates about classroom community, their individual successes and failures with students, and their own journey of personal growth offers me insights into their humanity.
TeacherMatch moves schools another step closer to a business model and abandons the heart of teaching.
The Madison Metropolitan School District should leave the matchmaking to the administrators, teachers, and, of course, to Yente.
Plan me no plans
I’m in no rush
Maybe I’ve learned
Playing with matches
A girl can get burned
Write the school board at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell them your thoughts about TeacherMatch.
There will be an open Board meeting with the vendor of TeacherMatch and MMSD BOE members available to answer questions on June 9th at La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road. The meeting will commence at 5:00 and will be followed by a public hearing on the budget at 6:00.