Did you ever have a student who really struggled with a concept? I mean really struggled. We're talking this child pushed you to explain things more ways than you knew was possible, asked you for example after example, spent countless hours practicing over and over and over with you cheering them on from the sidelines and then looked up at you day and said, "Huh?" Yes, that child.
It happens. We cover some tough stuff in elementary school and some friends are bound to struggle, right?
Of course, that's normal. That's to be expected. That's what we signed up for.
I had a student (okay, several students) who had a tough time distinguishing and using the hour hand and the minute hand on an analog clock. Throw in the cluster f*ck that NONE of the clocks in their homes were analog and therefore they had no true real word connection or purpose for this learning except to draw little crooked hands on a worksheet/test and you've got yourself one little educational conundrum. We practiced and practiced and they still didn't understand why the two hands weren't interchangeable.
"Why can't you use the short hand to tell the minute again, Mrs. Mimi?"
"Because it just doesn't measure the minute, honey. It shows us the hour."
"Well, that's just the way it is. The minute hand shows us the minute and the hour hand tells us the hour."
Eventually, these friends figured it out. They learned that the short hand is the hour hand and it shows us the hour. It's related to it's friend the minute hand, but it looks slightly different and serves a different purpose.
Kind of like standardized tests and evaluating teacher performance. They sound similar and yes, they are in fact related to each other but ONE DOES NOT MEASURE THE OTHER. Teacher performance is teacher performance and it doesn't tell us absolutely how a child is going to perform on a standardized test. And standardized tests are standardized tests and they don't truly indicate the how well a teacher did his or her job with said student.
Now if my little friends can grasp a concept as abstract as telling time on an analog clock, certainly well educated adults can understand the difference between a test that was designed to measure student's ability in one narrow aspect of their learning and the complicated task that is evaluating a teacher's performance across an entire school year.
Um, evidently not. Yesterday I saw this little piece of a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/la-times-rates-teachers-again-unfortunately/2011/05/09/AFA2TNZG_blog.html#pagebreak">unfortunate bullshit floating around the internet. Okay, the article itself is not bullshit, but the fact that the LA Times has YET AGAIN published teacher effectiveness scores based on some crap filled formula that THEY DEVELOPED (because OF COURSE they can do the impossible...which is turn complete ridiculousness into truth by putting it in print) despite the fact that a) standardized tests are not designed to measure TEACHER performance b) standardized tests don't even accurately measure a STUDENT's true ability c) many smart people have demonstrated that this math simply does not add up and d) it is unbelievably irresponsible and will bring nothing but trouble upon educators who are trying their damndest to teach in some of the most constraining conditions in history.
Now I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be evaluated at all. That's insane. Of course we should be held accountable for our work and of course we should have a formal evaluation process. However, when are the Powers That Be going to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths? Publicly, they say things like, "We have respect of teachers," and "Teachers are responsible for our future. It's a big job," and blah blah blah but then, THEN. Then, behind closed doors they devise plans so quick and dirty, so disrespectful, so illogical like tying a teacher's evaluation (and possibly PAY) to the score a student receives on a test!
Are we educators or are we test prep tutors? Do the Powers That Be REALLY have any respect or understanding of the scope of what we do? EVERY DAY. Because if the Powers That Be did have a shred of respect for us or possess an ounce of understanding, I'd like to think they'd take the time to design a system of evaluation that honored the complexity of our work and the context in which we do this work.