The Riddle of the Running Shoes: The Logic of Assessments

RunningShoe

Original Artwork by Lisa Lach, 2003

Notice: All teachers will have as a component of their evaluation, test results that measure the achievement of their students. This is in compliance with new educator evaluation regulations.

The section on Physical Education Teachers reads as follows: Running speed is the easiest measure of student performance in your class. Therefore all of your students will be tested as follows. The teacher and an objective observer from the school district will time all students as they run a mile around the track. The results will be recorded on special forms that will be returned to the state within a week of test completion. We realize that all students may not have running shoes. In order to level the playing field, these will be provided for all students a week prior to the test. Under no circumstances are students to take this test wearing their own shoes. Based upon student counts in our database, one pair of size 7 shoes for each female student and one pair of size 12 shoes for each male student will be sent to the school. This was determined from the statistically average shoe size, since it is too costly and requires too much time to provide shoes based on the foot size of each individual student.

Upon completion and receipt of the data, scores will be normalized and teachers whose students fall in the bottom quartile will be required to participate in remedial professional development. These scores will also reflect on the ranking of your school and district.

Be sure that your students are not the ones left behind in this high stakes race!

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The Results: Data from the million students in Massachusetts who took this test, shows one teacher whose students all ran in record time and placed in the top 5%. All the others show a fairly random distribution of scores. Can you guess why?

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Hint: The Principal saw that teacher sweeping the track the morning of the test.

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Reason: Upon questioning, the teacher said she had all of her students run the mile barefoot.

Question: Should the teacher be punished or praised?

DISCLAIMER: The scenario above is fictitious. It is intended as an allegory to highlight the illogical assumptions and factors that are ignored in our current educational assessments.

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