The latest version of the SEP Career Teachers Program includes student results on the ENLACE test as the most important (50% of total) factor in determining a merit bonus for Mexican teachers. This opened the door to teacher evaluation, but it also increased teachers’ mistrust in how they will be evaluated. Some of the limitations of the ENLACE in determining teacher merit are:
- Most educational research affirms that a test like ENLACE can’t be used to accurately determine teacher “value added” to student learning because student results on a standardized test depend on many factors besides the teacher. The American Statistical Association states: “Value-Added Assessment (VAA) Models… estimate effects of individual teachers or schools on student achievement while accounting for differences in student background…. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”
- Since ENLACE is not given to all students every year, it’s impossible to determine value added by a particular teacher because scores from the previous year for the same students are unavailable for comparison. No notion of student growth in a given school year is possible without comparing scores from one year to the next.
- Middle-class students who grow up with cultural advantages will generally do better on a standardized test than students from poor families. It follows that teachers who work with advantaged students will have better results than those working with disadvantaged ones. Unfortunately, schools in Mexico with more middle-class students very often have a higher per-pupil budget, so the advantage is doubled.
- A standardized measure like ENLACE is an indicator of student achievement, but provides little indication as to how to improve it. If results come at the end of the year “like an autopsy” (Wiggins, 2013), it’s likely nothing will be done. No impact is possible unless student performance is analyzed by groups of teachers in order to develop plans for improvement. And if some teachers in a school got a bonus for student scores on ENLACE and others did not, a resulting increase in mistrust among teachers can often undermine the kind of teamwork required to analyze the data from test results and develop plans to improve student learning.
In tying student scores to teacher bonuses, ENLACE becomes a dead end in the road to educational quality improvement. It´s a classic example of Campbell’s Law: “The more any quantitative social indicator… is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” (Wikipedia)