When I heard from Randy Hoover about his new website called “The Teacher-Advocate.com,” I asked him to write a post explaining his hopes and goals. I knew that he could describe it better than I could. Hoover spent 46 years as an educator.

Randy Hoover writes:

A Project to Reanimate Teacher Advocacy
Randy L. Hoover, PhD
Emeritus Professor, Youngstown State University

I began teaching in the late 60s, a political science major who never took an education course nor wanted anything to do with teaching or public schools but who fell into a 6th grade social studies teaching job in Madison, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. I will omit the somewhat sordid details of how I got the job and simply say that within a few weeks of encountering my first middle school students, my life took a 180-degree turn for the better, and I never looked back, at least not until recently. To make a very long story very short, I taught public school social studies for twelve years, acquired a master’s degree, and then earned my doctorate specializing in teacher education at The Ohio State University and headed into a temporary one-year job at Youngstown State University that morphed into a 30-year stint.

I loved my profession dearly because it was my calling, but I despised the politicization that began to happen with Reagan’s A Nation at Risk, which later led to No Child Left Behind, followed by Race to the Top, as they became the hitching posts for the reformist, state-level, pseudo accountability systems across America. My early experience in Madison was a time when both NEA and AFT aggressively embraced the philosophy of teacher advocacy, as it was referred to. My induction into the union and its philosophy stand as my baptism into consciously embracing the value of America’s public schools and the legitimacy of their educators. It was a time when the prime directive of my union was teacher advocacy in the noble pursuit of intellectual empowerment and social justice for the children of our public schools.

Though I initially taught undergraduate courses at YSU, my professorial passion lay in teaching graduate studies, and my later years at YSU were spent entirely developing and teaching graduate courses for practicing teachers and administrators. I had always encouraged a sense of teacher and public school advocacy in my students, but as their thoughts and feelings about Ohio’s accountability system became their overwhelming professional concern, I worked diligently to give them more opportunity to learn the critical issues of reform mandates and especially the political realities that shape them.

With every new semester, my students expressed greater concern and more confusion about what was happening to them. They wanted to know why their professional worlds were being so drastically altered for the worse, why they were being singled out as a profession for demonization and ridicule by the media, the public, and both major political parties. Indeed, some of my students were even beginning to believe the rhetoric of reform. Sadly, the only explanations they had were the fragmented, shallow propaganda slogans the reformists were peddling to the media for public consumption. There was simply no reflective critique, no voices challenging No Child Left Behind and the cascading, anti-teacher, anti-public school mandates gushing from the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Department of Education that were inundating them.

For my students working in high-poverty schools, the isolation and alienation was palpable, with very good, dedicated teachers feeling demoralized and abandoned amid the very public, state-mandated accountability reports showing them to be professionally incompetent. Equally disturbing were those in the wealthier schools who were starting to become a bit smug because these same accountability reports portrayed them to be professionally excellent. Neither group understood that teachers in low-performing schools were no more the cause of low performance than those in high-performing schools were of performance success.

I became more and more concerned at how powerless and how far removed my graduate student educators were from even having a clue to the real nature and substance of the school reform mandates, especially in terms of their role as teachers in affecting achievement test outcomes. I tried my best to teach about the accountability mandates, especially the fallacies of the standardized tests as the vehicle for judging schools and their educators. As I did, one thing that became eminently clear was that our unions had failed entirely in educating their memberships as to what was happening. It was sad, but simple: our unions were now accommodating the politics and, to large degree, the mentality of the anti-teacher, anti-public school reform movement. The legacy of teacher advocacy I acquired back in my years in Madison was dead and the ideal of social justice for America’s children abandoned.

While mentally preparing to retire at the end of spring term 2013 after 46 years as an educator, I became starkly aware that teacher education, especially graduate teacher education, was also failing to address the fictions and fallacies of educational reform as well. My own experience and a lot of anecdotal evidence from my colleagues across the country made it clear that schools and colleges of education were just as culpable as were our unions in not providing our students the opportunity to learn the critique of education reform. Thus was born my vision of The Teacher Advocate project (Teacher-Advocate.com).

The Teacher Advocate project is designed to educate public school educators and others who seek a fair, valid, and credible education accountability system and to advance the ideals of intellectual empowerment and social justice through our public schools. The website offers a series of papers, commentaries, and links specifically identifying and addressing the critical issues necessary to understand why and how our test-driven educational accountability systems are replete with invalid metrics and false claims resulting in indefensible and grossly unfair high-stakes consequences for students, educators, and communities. The site is unique in that it is a one-stop source for acquiring most, if not all, the concepts and ideas needed to expose the pseudo accountability of the system and to expose the special interests that pseudo accountability serves.

The resources available in the project enable the reader to deconstruct the language, slogans, and especially the contrived metrics to show how the accountability systems violate both established scientific principles of psychometrics and nationally-accepted ethical standards for educational assessment and evaluation. The site brings together a variety of emerging concepts from different sources such as the false proxy, the metrics machine, and authentic vs. pseudo accountability to illuminate the fallacious arguments of the reform movement. The Teacher Advocate represents many themes, all focused on the principle that the claims, the ratings, and the conclusions that flow from the metrics of any educational accountability system must be demonstrably credible and warranted and also be absent of any political or corporate hidden agendas. The project is a personal reminder to me that being vigilant toward the well being of the public schools and especially their teachers is being vigilant toward social justice and the well being of our nation’s children. My vision is that if knowledge is power, then knowledge of the intricacies of the reformist accountability movement offered in The Teacher Advocate may empower us to become the advocates we must become if public schools and their teachers are to survive.

The Teacher Advocate