Using Exam Results to Compare Teachers – No

 Teachers should not be judged by their students’ exam results. There are too many variables and extenuating circumstances which may affect the progress of a class in any given year, or on any particular set of exams. Among these, may be one or more of the following:

 (a) Two teachers, of equal ability, may be assigned to the same grade, but in different areas of a city. However, the students of each may be very different. Teacher A’s children may come from an area where the parents are intelligent and financially comfortable.  Their children will have had many advantages: attendance at Music or Dance classes, summer camp, participation in sports, travel, concerts, and museum visits. In addition, the young people have probably had opportunities to participate in family discussions on topics above the level of other children of the same chronological age.

Teacher B’s children may live in an area where English, for the majority of the students,  is a second language. In fact, many of the children may only have been introduced to it in Kindergarten, and they will still be far from fluent. For these young people, expressing their ideas either verbally or in written form may be a struggle. Their parents will mostly be working class folks whose primary concern is providing the necessities of life for the family. As much as they might like to, they will lack the resources and energy for activities to enrich the lives of their offspring.

(b) Even for students in the same area, there are a multiple of variables which may affect the progress of one class over another. If one group has a succession of supply teachers, each with different methods and expectations, during the school year, it will not progress as well as another class which was fortunate enough to work with the same instructor from September until June.

(c) Illness can affect the progress of one group of students compared to another during the school year. If Teacher A had to cope with epidemics of stomach flu in the Fall, head lice during the Winter and mumps in the Spring, he or she would  have to go much more slowly, often reteaching and reviewing, to accommodate those children who were coming and going over a period of weeks.

(d) The weather can also be a powerful influence of the progress of one class of children over another of similar age. If Teacher B works in an area plagued by snowstorms, a tornado or two, or a destructive hurricane, his or her children will not do as well as a similar class in a zone which enjoys a moderate climate. When a school is closed for an extended period, the children cannot help but fall behind academically.

(e) The policy of each School Board also affects academic progress. Some school authorities stress student self-reliance, the arts, or sports success over the three R’s. Homework is seldom assigned and children are encouraged to problem-solve and allowed to proceed at their own pace.

In contrast, other Boards have structured programs, with definite expectations for each grade level. The students are disciplined firmly but fairly by teachers until they are able to develop self-disciplinary skills. Appropriate Homework is routinely assigned according to the child’s age. Students in these types of schools will have better exam results than those in less structured institutions.

Because of these and other variables, it is impossible to compare the exam results of one teacher with those of another. After all, teachers are only human. They cannot control the children’s home conditions or backgrounds, their own health or that of the children, the weather or School Board policies. The majority of teachers will instruct the children in their classes to the best of their ability, while faithfully following Board policies. For that reason, it is advisable to sometimes give each of them a well-deserved pat on the back.