I was under the impression that NBC planned on dedicating an entire week to this big Education Nation business, which, you know, made sense that it would be at least a week since there is so much to talk about.
It seems to have ended yesterday?
There aren't any other scheduled interviews or panels? No other non-teachers to talk to? Brad Pitt wasn't available for comment? The local barista at Starbucks? No?
I was all set for a week's worth of blogging, venting and yelling at my television. I had popcorn and everything.
Fortunately, a lovely reader (Thanks Laura Swain!) dropped this little 'ol bomb on me and bingo! I'm all fired up again.
Evidently the LA Times has taken it upon themselves to do some value added analysis of ten years worth of standardized test scores in order to determine each teacher's general effectiveness and then (You guessed it!) point some fingers. Very public fingers. With pictures.
(I will pause for you to at least read the beginning of the article linked above.)
(I will pause some more for you to finish yelling and maybe shaking your fist at the computer.)
(It's no problem, I totally get it.)
In the spirit of being Zen in 2010 (I mean, it rhymes so i HAVE to do it!), I shall start with the (relatively few) points with which I agree and/or find interesting without being inflamatory.
Well, okay. Let's see. The author FINALLY recognizes that urban schools are not pits of teacher waste, brimming with irresponsible adults hell-bent on widening the achievement gap. I know that WE knew that, but the media just loves to harp on that one, don't they? (Nor are we all clad in leather.) (Michelle Pfeiffer, I'm looking at YOU!) If we consider the very contraversial statistical analysis of the LA Times to be remotely telling, this is one thing I'm happy has been brought to light. Teachers in urban areas kick ass. Teachers in suburban areas kick ass. Teachers in rural kick ass. And you know what? The crappy ones are EVERYWHERE! (Which is probably part of the problem, but I digress.)
I also found it interesting that the author would suggest that the teacher a child is assigned contributes more to that student's overall academic success than the school itself. See above. Pretty obvious if you ask me. We are one of the MOST IMPORTANT PIECES TO THE PUZZLE YET ARE CONSTANTLY IGNORED.
Dude, we just want a place at the table. Just give us a say and I will totally stop with the all caps.
I think this article (no matter how ridiculous it is to rely on these numbers to tell such a HUGE AND COMPLEX story) brings to light an interesting question for us all to ponder regarding student engagement too. If there is teaching, by no learning is happening, is there really any teaching going on? Very if a tree falls in the woods, very chicken and egg. I'm going to go ahead and say no, there is no teaching going on if all the students are disengaged. But I would also like to suggest the following mental cluster f*ck for your pondering pleasure: If "reform" and mandates abound, but no real progress is made, is it really reform?
And now, on with the venting.
ARE THESE PEOPLE AT THE LA TIMES ABSOLUTELY INSANE?!?!? THEY ARE GOING TO PUBLICLY HUMILIATE TEACHERS BY PUBLISHING THEIR TEST RESULTS IN THIS MANNER? THIS IS HOW WE GO ABOUT REWARDING THE BEST TEACHERS? BY PUBLISHING THE NAMES AND PICTURES OF THE BAD ONES?
I mean, can you imagine the aftermath of this puppy? Parents running to the school to insist their children be removed from certain classes? Students deciding to totally check out because their teacher was written up as ineffective by a newspaper reporter? Administrators giving jaded feedback because they read the morning paper too?
Ah, sweet, sweet accountability.
Now, I'm not saying that ineffective teachers should remain in the classroom or be quietly shuffled to another district to become their problem. No, No, No. HOWEVER, I do not see how this type of jaded, anti-teacher, anti-progress, inflammatory reporting is going to make anything better. Yes, ineffective teachers need to be dealt with. But no, they do not need to be publicly humiliated nor does their existence need to be spread all throughout the media masquerading as accountability when we can all see it's just another attempt to shit all over us.
And for the love of Somebody With A Brain, when are we going to stop making test scores the be all and end all? When are we going to actually use this data in ways that make sense? When are we going to realize that the tests were not designed to measure teacher effectiveness and therefore should not be used to measure teacher effectiveness? When are we going to stop minimizing the goal of schooling?
Um, hellooooooo? TEST SCORES ARE NOT EVERYTHING.
They are convenient. You know what else is convenient? Nursing bras. But you don't see me trying to remove a hot casserole from the oven with my nursing bra just because it is convenient in another context, do you?
But perhaps the saddest bit to this article? The brief section where a teacher admitted that being held up as a successful teacher often makes you an outcast amongst your peers.
It's sad. And kinda true. At least it is where I used to teach. It's like if an administrator says anything positive about one teacher, there's another group of teachers that assumes this compliment means something negative about them. And aren't we all supposed to be in this together?
Oh, my friends. My head hurts. Can't we just all get along?