I took a deep, cleansing yoga breath and watched some panel of puny pontificators, who have never stepped in front of a class of 36 hormonally-challenged 7th grade unconscientious objectors to homework, sanctimoniously agree amongst themselves that the only problem with schools these days is: Bad Teachers.
Good Teachers have no problems. So. When there were problems, it must because of: Bad Teachers. I took another yoga breath, threw a pillow at the TV and screamed my best ten potty words. Namaste.
Schools are the current topic of conversation because it’s time to reauthorize the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides modest federal education funding for children disadvantaged by poverty, discrimination, disability and language barriers. A Good Thing.
When last reauthorized, it was rebaptized “No Child Left Behind.” Not a Good Thing for many reasons, the least of which is that it mandates what competent researchers have found to be Highly Stupid Tests.
No Child Left Behind demanded simplicity. All 666 regulation-packed pages of it. It simply demands states set some cut score on some standardized test, declare that that score measures something they must call “proficiency” without any pesky evidence that it means any such thing, then name, blame and shame a school that doesn’t meet its quota of children hitting the cut score, labeling the entire school as failing “Adequate Yearly Progress”, again inventing a term that sounds extremely scientific, objective and quantifiable but which, in fact, means Diddily Poop.
(“Diddily Poop”, coincidentally, being a term which has precisely the same scientific, objective and quantifiable research base as the term “Adequate Yearly Progress”.)
There is a lucrative science that undergirds No Child Left known in academic circles as: Making Things Up. It makes up that a standardized test is actually designed to measure “proficiency” or whether a school is actually failing or succeeding in making “adequate progress”.
America’s most dedicated educators have been praying mightily for an end to the hell of false labels and the testing tail wagging the dog-and-pony show that now passes as teaching and learning in schools where administrators are forced to bundle toxic testing strategies worthy of Lehman Brothers in their efforts to be accountable–not to the kids, but to hitting their numbers.
Good Teachers know the difference. We have continued to teach in spite of No Child Left.
I am a good teacher. I designed challenging lessons and because kids learn in different ways, they would sing and smell and taste the lesson. I stayed after school with them. I gave them essay tests and spelling tests and science projects and book reports. I called parents when there was a problem, but more often when their child had done something amazing. We hugged and laughed and I listened to them because what they had to say was important, whether it was important to a cut score. Or. Not.
I’m good. So I’m mad. Now that it’s time to fix the current abuse of using a child’s standardized test to label an entire school, there’s a move to use a cut score to label an individual teacher.
To do this, of course, they have to Make Stuff Up since there is no pyschometrician, analyst or sober test manufacturer who has ever found evidence that a child’s test is a valid assessment of a teacher. In my class, one student might get an A and another might get an F. Does that make me a C teacher? Well, good teacher evaluation is complicated. Best keep it simple and Make Stuff Up:
Start by using words that sound swell, even though there is no science to defend their use. How about “Effective” teachers?
Pitch: Effective Teachers’ kids have high test scores. Ineffective Teachers’ kids have low test scores. Simple to know who gets the prize. And who gets fired. Pundits can phone this one in.
Simplicity passed last time on a bipartisan vote. But not this time. It’s the best teachers who will rebel against more Making Stuff Up. Because there are problems. Because the old ways aren’t working for all kids. Because we can be better. But only if we stop Making Stuff Up.
We need real data–not to label, but to analyze. We need to study how some schools in the most dangerous, poverty stricken neighborhoods turned their students lives towards something better.
(Hint: They didn’t pay for test scores, privatize or fire the staff.)
To ratchet up the misuse of tests gets in the way of what might really help our students. Good teachers, are not going to let that happen. Not again.