By Anthony Cody (and Anonymous).
I received the following message from a reader this morning. With his permission, I am sharing it here, followed by my own thoughts:
I just applied to Downey Unified School District in Southern California and was referred to the Teachermatch website to take the “EPI” test to see if I was a good match. It was a bizarre, poorly-written test, that left me feeling angry that school districts are paying tens of thousands of dollars to this company for these bogus, meaningless assessments of candidates.
It was an hour-and-a-half with timed questions on logic, analogies, math, theory, hypothetical situations, etc. All multiple choice. Several questions about education philosophy did not have any choices that represented my philosophy–but I had to choose one to move on to the next question. There was a question about multiplying fractions — not a word problem, but literally 3/5 X 2/3—without the correct answer, but with fractions followed by abbreviations I have never seen before (ie “3/4 nf” and “1/2 bd”). I attended UC San Diego (consistently rated as one of top universities in the world) and have a Masters Degree. I had no idea what those abbreviations meant. But you have to choose an answer to continue to the next question. And you have to choose it within 90 seconds or you will be marked “in violation.”
My understanding is that Teacher Match is an LLC started by a former police officer in Chicago because he is “very concerned about unqualified teachers” in the schools. So he decided to gather a secret group of investors/finance industry executives together to develop this test (since those are the people most knowledgeable and most concerned about the crisis with incompetent teachers ruining our education system!). They charge tens of thousands to schools/districts to use their system that they claim is proven effective by data that they can’t share. And they are presenters at conferences that cater to investors looking at how to get into lucrative public education markets.
When the test was finished I was prompted to give them my personal information,, complete a profile and purchase a membership so that potential employers could view my profile (which I suppose would include the results of this test, which I could not see– I have no idea what score I got). I was not given a score, nor was there any explanation of how it would be scored.
Do you know anything about this? Does anyone have any thoughts?
The TeacherMatch website says this about their test:
TeacherMatch EPI: Educators Professional Inventory is a dynamic, data-driven platform that predicts the impact teacher candidates will have on student achievement. Our groundbreaking first-of-its-kind hiring assessment tool is designed to identify the top teaching candidates for any teaching position.
Here is their video that explains their claims.
This is a logical extension of our obsession with test score data. If, as we have seen, Value Added modeling (VAM) is unreliable at predicting test scores of students based on actual data, how in the world can this test pretend to predict future test scores of purely hypothetical students?
In a way, this completes the test-focused circle. In order to see who will best prepare students to score well on tests, we give prospective teachers a sort of “master test.” Those who score well, we are told, will be the best test-preppers. We are not given any actual data as to how well this system works in the real world. And more fundamentally, it is taken as a matter of faith that the job of our schools is to generate the highest test scores possible. This is the biggest flaw in the entire data-driven system. These technocrats are obsessing over bogus indicators of quality.
School districts that turn their hiring process over to systems like this will spend many thousands of dollars to make themselves “data-driven”. In so doing, they are likely to make choices influenced by factors that may have little bearing on that which makes teachers most effective. Just as many of the most important aspects of student learning are not measured by tests, the qualities that make a great teacher cannot be captured by a test.
TeacherMatch was founded in 2011 by Ron Huberman, who had departed his post as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. This history served him well. According to this Chicago Sun Times report from 2015, more than half of the 500 job openings at TeacherMatch then were at Chicago charter schools.
We have heard that schools are moving away from being focused on test scores — and California is supposed to be leading the way. What does it say about our accountability climate that school districts here are spending thousands of scarce dollars on this sort of data-driven hokum?