Bob Shepherd is an amazingly accomplished writer, assessment developer, wordsmith, textbook author, and many more things. But after climbing many professional mountains, he decided to become a classroom teacher. He has a low tolerance for nonsense. He teaches in Florida.

Evaluation Session Stream of Consciousness Rant

OK, you are sitting in your year-end evaluation session, the freaking EIGHTH such session you’ve had this year, as though you had nothing better to do, and you’ve heard from every other teacher in your school that his or her scores were a full level lower this year than last, and so you know that the district office has leaned on the principal to give fewer exemplary ratings even though your school actually doesn’t have a problem with its test scores and people are doing what they did last year but a bit better, of course, because one grows each year as a teacher–one refines what one did before, and one never stops learning.

But you know that this ritual doesn’t have anything, really, to do with improvement. It has to do with everyone, all along the line, covering his or her tushy and playing the game and doing exactly what he or she is told, going all the way back to Bill Gates, who, being a God, evaluates but is not evaluated, who did stack ranking at Microsoft because, admit it, he was probably on the spectrum and didn’t know better and, since behaving in this appalling way made him incredibly wealthy, it must be right, huh? And, at any rate, everyone except the politicians and those paid to think otherwise knows that the tests in ELA are not actually valid or reliable and that’s not really the issue at your school because, the scores are pretty good because this is a suburban school with affluent parents, and the kids always, year after year, do quite well.

So whether the kids are learning isn’t really the issue. The issue is that by means of the latest magic formula pushed by the district and some InstaEduPundit, each cohort of kids is supposed to perform better than the last–significantly better–on the tests, though they come into your classes in exactly the same shape they’ve always come into them in because, you know, they are kids and they are just learning and teaching ISN’T magic. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s magical, sometimes, but its’ not magic.

So, the stuff you’ve been told to do in your “trainings” (“Bark. Roll over. Sit. Good Boy”) is pretty transparently teaching-to-the-test because some people, astonishingly, continue to believe, after years of evidence to the contrary, that that’s a way that one might actually meet the insane demand that each cohort will be magically superior to the last, but you feel in your heart of hearts that caving to this idiocy, this crowd madness, would be JUST WRONG, that it would short-change your students to start teaching InstaWriting-for-the Test, Grade 5, instead of, say, teaching writing. And despite all the demeaning crap you are subjected to, you still give a damn.

And you sit there and you actually feel sorry for this principal because she, too, is squirming like a fly in treacle in the muck that is Education Deform, and she knows she has fantastic teachers who knock it out of the park year after year, but her life has become a living hell of accountability reports and data chats to the point that she doesn’t have time for anything else anymore (she has said this many times), and now she has to sit there and tell her amazing veteran teachers who have worked so hard all these years and who care so much and give so much and know so freaking much that they are just satisfactory, and she feels like hell doing this and is wondering when she can retire.
And the fact that you BOTH know this hangs there in the room–the big, ugly, unspoken thing. And the politicians and the plutocrats and the mendacious twits at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and that smarmy know-nothing David Coleman and the Secretary of the Department for the Privatization of Education, formerly the USDE, and the Vichy education guru collaborators with these people barrel ahead, like so many drunks in a car plowing through a crowd of pedestrians.