I came across a moving story about a music educator in Wisconsin whose death stirred his town and wrote about him last night. His influence was widely acknowledged.

I asked, in light of the community’s reaction, how such an inspiring teacher should be evaluated. It was obvious that test scores was not the right answer, in part because what he taught–music and band–do not lend themselves to measurement by test scores. But the qualities that the community honored in him–his ability to inspire, his love for music, his concern for students–are inherently not quantifiable. The same might be said for teachers in other subjects as well, not just teachers of music and the other arts.

A music educator commented:

As a former high school band teacher, and current music teacher educator, this story shines a light on one of the glaring inadequacies of the current, one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluation. music teaching is different than teaching math, or science, or reading–and one rubric or test can’t measure every kind of teacher. or school. or community. music teachers across the country are struggling with how to use these tools to describe the totality of what we do, and with the reality that our jobs–as it is with our colleagues in every other other discipline–are just too complex, complicated and messy to fit in this tiny little box.

It has always seemed to me that the things we care the most about, that are most important to us, are the most resistant to this sort of simplistic measurement. do we measure our marriages with a 4 point scale? do we “grade” the love we have for our children on a rubric? teaching is a daily act of love; love for our students, for their learning, for our colleagues, and for our communities. to think that we can measure our effectiveness as teachers with a 4 point scale is not only absurd, its insulting.

Mr. Garvey made a difference in his community that could never be measured by a test. it was measured by the length of the line at his wake, and by the depth of the grief felt by his former students and his family at his funeral. Mr. Garvey, like many, many teachers across the country who are getting ready to return to their classrooms, taught because he wanted to bring his love of his subject matter to his students, to make them think about the world differently, and to help them become the persons they wanted to become. there aren’t enough “points” on any teacher evaluation rubric to measure the difference these teachers will make this year.