I get many thoughtful comments. I read them all because I learn from readers. This reader asks a very good question. Can you answer the question?

“There is an observation regarding these high stakes tests that has been nagging  me as I witnessed, another year of my 3rd through 8th grade students painfully struggle through the hours, days and weeks of these insane and brutal standardized tests. All the while wondering what my future will be based on the quality of their  performance.   Now, perhaps someone reading this, can  add their discussion on the topic. Here goes:

 The legally mandated  student school year in PA is set at 180 instructional days covering from Sept to June.   That computes to be  the equivalent of 180 instructional days times 6.5 hrs/day  or,  approximately 1170 instructional hours per school year.  These are hours for which I am financially compensated.  These are hours for which I am also expected to be accountable for the achievement effect my instruction has on  my students during the 11-12 school year. A test administered to each of  my students regardless of their variations in strengths, weaknesses, tolerances and language proficiencies will determine my very professional survival, let alone my personal survival, quality of life as well as that of my family.   I understand that. These are the life changing stakes. What I realized this year is that this test was administered on day # 125 of my district’s school calendar.

 My students are being tested on their recall of content and on their literacy proficiencies assumed to have been ‘acquired’ from their instructional time in my charge during the duration of the 11-12 school year. This, by law, is supposed to be 180  calendar days. However, the actual truth is, my students are being assessed and scored based upon only 125 days of my instruction, or 812.5 instructional hours. What happened to the rest of the legal school year? What happened to  those other valuable and precious instructional hours/days of lessons? What happened to the measurement of the other 56 days X  6.5 hours that equal 364 hours?  My students, my district and I are facing the potential for  major disastrous consequences of  these test scores, because it is deemed by the funding powers to be the ONLY recognized accountability measure of our professional worth. When in fact, the state is not permitting the public schools a full legal school year to engage in instruction. This year we were permitted only 2/3 of the instructional time mandated by law before the state imposed its accountability gauge on our practices.  Perhaps, the Dept of Ed feels that the balance of that instructional time (April to June) will be assessed the during via the next year’s 12-13  tests.  Well, hold on there! That means I was assessed THIS year for 56 days of last year teacher’s instructional time with my students.  One third of my students’ instructional time was with another teacher (s), yet my salary, my retention /dismissal, and my certification  are to be determined based on the productivity of someone other than myself for 56 instructional days!    My students’ 56 days duration with another teacher or teachers from a previous year  is an crucial variable which the state has put beyond my control. And yet, I am being held responsible for it as if it were instructional time for which I indeed, had controI!

 Logically that makes any assumption regarding my teaching skill, based on the score of  test,  a faulty premise. Statistically, it invalidates the score as a measure of my functioning during ‘11-12.  The truth is: the test score can only assume to measure 125 days of my instruction time, not a full 180 days. At best , the score can only be deemed to represent 2/3’s of my teacher quality, not 100%
 I am being held accountable for 180 days of instruction, despite the fact that I have only been allowed to engage with my students for 125 days.  This is no petty matter. I can be fired based on this score. I can be denied salary based on this score, or (hah) merit pay.  My district can lose funding for the arts, science, music, athletics, counseling and its very existence.  This, I do believe, is a  scandalous injustice, one which has the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of teachers and school employees to be  unemployed.
For those who interpret all of existence from a business model perspective. Let me use corporate jargon…
Would a financial entity allow one of their investment instruments be evaluated for dividends gained  derived from only 2/3  of its fiscal investment period? And furthermore, would they see as fair, if the other 1/3 of fiscal investment period assumes the  dividend performance of an unknown investment instrument managed by an unknown competitive financial entity?
Certainly not.  They would be in a court room faster than you can say, RIP OFF!
We should not stand for it either.  Any thoughts?”

Do you think that it is fair to judge a teacher by scores that reflect the work of previous teachers? The teacher might also have added that the tests reflect the students’ willingness to study, the students’ sense of urgency about the test, the family’s support for the student, whether the student has a quiet place to study, whether the student is working after school and has no time to study, whether the student can read English, whether the student is experiencing a major life crisis during the school year, whether the school has good leadership, whether teachers collaborate, whether the school has a strong curriculum, adequate resources, reasonable class sizes, and what the weather was on testing day, as well as about 100 other factors.