We know about the people who are using “reform” as their stepping stone to fame and fortune.
We know about those who demand more testing, more standardization, more dehumanization.
We know about the policymakers and pundits who think that test scores are the object of education.
Nothing else matters to them.
What do we know about the administrators and teachers who look on their students as if they were their own?
When history judges what you did now, how will you answer?
In the end, ask yourself, whose side are you on?
This reader did:
Everything in my being is telling me this is all so wrong. I keep thinking of my own two grown children. They are bright and hard working and successful. They were lucky enough to have been educated before NCLB morphed our education system into something unrecognizable to those of us who understand what really great teaching looks like.
As an administrator I am required to observe and evaluate teachers at my school. I see great teaching on a regular basis. But I also see teachers who are scared because their jobs are tied to test results. So they fall back on teaching test taking skills and constantly focus on the test. Louisiana law now requires a teacher whose state student scores give her an ineffective rating to be fired, even if I rate her as an effective teacher through my observations and evaluations. How can teachers function with this hanging over their heads all year.
I try to tell them to relax and do what they know works. But how can they relax? Their classrooms are filled with students who are terrified of that same test. Some refuse to participate because they have had enough of the pressure. Our 4th and 8 th grade tests are high stakes, meaning if they don’t pass the test, they don’t pass the grade.
As I said, this all feels so wrong. But by law we are required to submit and subject teachers and students to this torture year after year. How do I reconcile all of this? It doesn’t really matter what I say or do because their value added (VAM) score comes from the state and student test scores, and it will determine if they have a job next year or not. My goal this year is to be their support system, their cheerleader, whatever they need. I will do my best to be in the classrooms, walk the halls, remove disruptive students, give recognition, anything, and everything.
Whenever I am not sure how to handle a situation with a teacher, student, or parent, I stop and ask myself it the situation were reversed, how would I want to be treated? Then I proceed. As I am struggling with all of this I ask myself, what would I want for my own children? Then I know what I need to do for these children. It feels like an uphill battle, but I can’t give up. I want to be on the right side when history judges our actions. I answer to the children.
A teacher responded to the administrator in the same thread:
Bless you for your compassion. We wish there were more of you, not in the schools, but in the legislature so that this nonsense could be stopped. Thank you anyway. We shall continue to do our best to remember these are human beings. I have already planned on what my wife and I must do should I be fired. When I started I was an excellent teacher because I could use my knowledge gained in 40 years of work in other fields and several advanced degrees. I knew as things stood then I would have a job as long as I did my job. This created an atmosphere where I could teach, innovate, and seek excellence in my students and myself. Because my job was secure, it paid enough to meet my needs, I could give more of myself and joyously teach. I was blessed with administrators like you. Now I am reminded every day that if test scores don’t rise we older “suddenly less effective” teachers will be gone. The evil tenure no longer protects us. I remember the kids that I am now inspiring to explore science and read about great inventions may be the generation that overthrows this mess. I may lose my career sooner than I had hoped, but I will not offend the dignity of my students. I teach Kindergarten through 5th graders, 160 kids a day, I regard them as my much younger siblings, I can’t turn them into a number.