Shankar Vedantam, who typically explains social science research and issues, discussed a study about 'loss aversion.' The basic idea is that giving teachers a bonus at the start of a year and requiring that they return it if test scores are not high enough makes for great test scores. I have so many issues with this.
Enough issues that I wrote my first letter to NPR:
As a teacher I am grateful for the extensive and deep coverage education receives from NPR. Unfortunately, today’s piece by Shankar Vedantam on loss aversion as a strategy for improving test scores was highly disappointing. His basic overview of the study was accurate.
However, my husband, a college professor, and I, an elementary school teacher, were disappointed and disturbed by a couple of aspects of the story. The first stems from Vedantam’s statement, “The test was standardized so there was no cheating on the test scores.” It is clear there was plenty of cheating in Atlanta on standardized tests and widely accepted that the same is true in Washington, D.C. Such a statement as Vedantam’s is naïve.
The second point, and the truly critical one, is summed up in the quote that stated that loss aversion turned “average teachers into great teachers.” The assumption here is that student test scores define average or great or otherwise teachers. Students are much more than their test scores show. Defining success solely by test scores is limiting and highly unfair to children and to teachers.
The title of this blog post refers to a previous post.