In this post, a veteran teacher with 30 years of experience explains why she had to retire. She didn’t want to. But the obsession with data-based decision-making finally broke her spirit.

She recounts incidents where she was able to help students, where students gave her their trust, where classes learned to love literature as she did. She remembers staff meetings devoted to lessons and students, not to data analysis. As all the rewarding parts of her work were eliminated, she realized that the reforms made it I possible to do what she loved est: to teach.

She writes:

“I remember a time when department meetings, faculty meetings, and in-service days revolved around reading, sharing ideas, learning about our subjects—and not around the only topics that seem to matter today: lesson plan format, testing, rubrics, teacher evaluations and technological gimmicks. Watch your back! If you don’t conform it will be held against you!

“I remember AP students who told me their lives were changed after reading Hamlet, or Beloved, or Middlemarch. Is there a metric for that, or is a score on the AP exam the only thing that counts? Yes, we did lots of close reading, but is that what students will remember?

“Mostly I remember a time when I could be creative, do lots of research, veer off in different but related directions, have discussions, allow students to talk about how they feel (yes, David Coleman), and even lecture occasionally, without worrying if I covered every one of the myriad points in the Danielson model in EVERY lesson.

“I am so sad when I read that students, teachers, and schools are labeled “failures.” I am bewildered when I read statements from “reformers” with no background in child development writing standards, arbitrarily setting cut scores, misinterpreting test results, making flawed comparisons with other countries, giving only lip service to parents, and blaming teachers for every ill in society. I am angry when I think of people with no background in education (i.e. politicians from BOTH parties and businesspeople) condescending to, insulting, and even vilifying teachers, whose job is more difficult, challenging, and complex than anyone who has never tried it can imagine.”

Read it all. Get angry. Take action. Find allies. Join your state or local group to resist these terrible trends that destroy the love of teaching and learning. Join the Network for Public Education.