Thursday, July 15, 2010

Something else to make my blood boil...

New Evaluation Laws Split Teachers Even More

Listen to, or read this when you have a moment.  Its by NPR, so take your political bent where you find it, but this chaps my hide!

There needs to come a time when politicians stop treating teachers and students as if they are widgets.  Students are not machines; you can not reliably put in the same content, as you would put money into a vending machine, and be assured to get a reliably measurable product out.  Tying teacher evaluations to student performance will lead to a worsening of the education system, not an improvement of it.

There are too many variables in place for this system of evaluations to work.  There are way too many unknowns for teachers to be comfortable with the idea.  I agree wholeheartedly: there are teachers who should not be in the classroom.  I've worked with some!  My own children have experienced them. (OK, 1... one kid, had one teacher who needed to retire like 10 years ago.. the other ones have been wonderful).

The inherent problem is this: teachers cannot control the lives of their students.  Until we can, basing a teacher evaluation on what the students do is unfair and possibly leading to tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

Teachers arrive every fall with a clean slate, more or less.  We have our curriculum.  We have our bag of tricks to reach those kids at the end of the bell curve - the ones who struggle and the ones who soar far beyond the scope and sequence of our teaching.  But every year, those kids are different. We have them under our 'control' for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, assuming they have parents who even remotely value education and actually make sure they get to school.

We cannot control if they learn.  We cannot change the family who takes their child out of school for every sniffle.  We cannot do anything about the parents who don't care if their child does homework or not.  We cannot instill an appreciation of learning into a family where it is perfectly acceptable to get an "F" for a grade.  We cannot control the number of special ed kids we have in a class, or the number of kids whose parents are getting divorced, leaving their children in an emotional wake that will take years to dissipate.

When teachers have their evaluations tied to student achievement, you are looking at teaching through the wrong lens.  Teachers, like me, who serve special populations will never 'measure up' on these political charts - my students may make 1/3 a years' worth of progress during a school year.  Does that mean I am a bad teacher?  Or does that speak more to the talents and shortcomings of my students, a group of individuals over whom I have no control?

Teachers will leave.  Teachers are already stretched thin, and while some teachers make upwards of $70K a year, none that I know personally do, and at the end of the day, it might just be easier to work at Starbucks than to put up with increasingly demanding legislation from those who have never been in a classroom.  You cannot take the rules of the board room and expect them to work in the school yard.

Teachers, as a population, are already fed up.  Pile unfair evaluation practices on top of them, and you will see many give up.  The teacher short-fall will be great, and it is  my guess that soon the evaluation for hiring a teacher will be .. "Can she fog a mirror??  Yeah??!!  You're HIRED!"  Good choices are never made in desperation, and I can see this is the path our local schools are heading down.

Thanks Washington...

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