The current era of school reform has nothing to do with improving education or helping kids and everything to do with imposing business values on schools, specifically, (1) subjecting schools to measurements that distort their goals and (2) privatizing public schools so as to disable the public responsibility for public education.
This project has many tentacles, such as opening privately managed charter schools, evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students, merit pay, vouchers, etc. It all boils down to the same basic goal: to set unrealistic targets for school performance and to use those metrics to advance privatization.
The corporate reforms fail and fail and fail and fail, and eventually their unending failure will break through to the larger public.
Just yesterday, Jay Matthews of the Washington Post, who has dependably supported the corporate reforms, explained that he no longer believes that it is usefl to evaluate individual teachers by the test scores of their students. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/class-struggle/post/why-rating-teachers-by-test-scores-wont-work/2012/05/13/gIQAJb5lMU_blog.html). Jay now understands that this doesn’t work. The one-year models don’t work. Family income has a bigger effect on test scores than teachers. He still sort of believes in value-added assessment, because over three years, he thinks, you can identify the best and the worst teachers. But as Jay probably knows, states are hanging single-number ratings around the necks of teachers that discourage all teachers, including the very best ones. Teachers feel demeaned when all their hard work turned into a number based on their students’ test scores.
Note to Jay: No other nation in the world is evaluating their teachers by the test scores of their students. Not in the short run and not in the long run. Other nations have education systems led by educators, not politicians and businessmen. They understand that test scores reflect the students’ efforts, as mediated by many influences, such as the resources of the school, family income, and the many teachers with whom the students have interacted. It’s tough to disentangle those influences and pin them on one teacher. Teachers know that. Businessmen and politicians don’t.
I hope Jay has read the reports of the Metlife Survey of the American Teacher and the Scholastic-Gates report on what teachers want. They express profound disregard for the numbers that reformers hold dear. How will we replace the hundreds of thousands of teachers who feel contempt, rather than respect? Jay is absolutely right at the end of his column when he writes about the importance of teamwork. Teachers don’t see themselves in competition with the teacher in the next class; they think they are on the same team, working towards common goals. Not higher test scores, but better educated students, more independent persons, more thoughtful citizens. Measure that.