Have we not brought this on ourselves? Truly, it’s our own fault we are mired in this whole “measuring teacher’s effectiveness” mess anyway.
And why? Because we, as teachers, have run amok.
We had a chance to police ourselves, we had a chance to be our brother’s keeper, we had a chance to self-regulate in a way that resembled sensibility.
We had decades to do so. But we got ahold of too much rope and now we have hung ourselves. Our negative fringes need to be reigned in, our performance needs to be recognized as something that is not above improvement nor reproach, our sense of team is being torn asunder by the “I’s” who think they are above having to be a part of a team, and we need to do a better job at our job — like all aspects of American education do.
We can point the figure at every other quadrant of public schooling: parents, community, societal values, administration, the federal government, the budget and on and on… and be right about the blame we lay!
Yet still, that does not change the fact that we must take ownership over our own shortcomings and figure out a way we, as teachers, can better serve the needs of the next generation of student.
And if it comes with some professional uncomfortableness, so effin’ be it!
Teaching is NOT about us, the teachers; first and foremost it’s about the students. In our field we know this, we see this, we bleed this.
We live this.
But not all of us of do. And a small cancer has spread to the point where it’s no longer small.
Clearly, the campus duds must be de-dudded and we gotta start bringing better game to the table. All of us do.
(BTW, NCLB is not even worth mentioning to counter this argument because NCLB has been a farce and you’re not gonna find any love from me for the calamity that this exercise in folly has wrought for us all.)
Now the thing is, people get uproarious about feeling accused. Chill out because if you are reading this, you probably are not one of the people at whom I am pointing the finger. Those folks rarely, if ever, read blogs on nings seeking out answers on their own time as to how to improve their craft or stay up to date on the latest policy measures (much less looking for a means whereby they can improve a lesson plan).
But if we can’t acknowledge that something is rotten in the state of Denmark then we have absolutely no chance in hell of ever improving it.
It begins with us taking a look in the mirror and being humble (and realistic) about the fact that we can get better.
We all seem to believe, as teachers, that good assessment is an asset to improving our ability to elevate student learning in our classrooms. How do I know what a kid knows unless I assess what it is I am seeking for them to be able to prove they understand and can do?
And once I assess and reflect on the student’s performance, I can chart a new path for extended growth.
Because growth never stops in education. There is no end line to any of this.
However, if you take away my ability to assess my kids (no formal measurements at all) I believe I will be a lesser teacher. By a lot! Nope, I am not Socrates. Or Jesus or Buddha or whatever other person you can think of that was able to turn student water into wine without formal feedback. (Unless Socrates actually gave 5 paragraphs essays that I didn’t know about. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate egg on our face — Socrates assigned hamburger essays on truth, beauty and nobility — the documents were just misfiled amongst the ruins. Yikes!)
No, I am just a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, California and I use multiple measures to gain insight into the knowledge and performance of the kids in my class.
Why can’t the same be applied to us as teachers on the whole?
No one measurement in my class ever gives the whole story to me as to a kid’s learning anyway. (Which is why high stakes tests don’t really strike me as the cat’s meow.)
I use multiple measures. From quizzes to personal contact to project-based learning projects to traditional summative assessment tools, I use multiple approaches to gain the knowledge I seek.
And I find that knowledge valuable because it better enables me to figure out ways to teach my students.
And giving an F is always the last resort. (As firing would be in the plan I envision.) But i do give some F’s. (And we do need to fire some folks.)
But I give a lot more A’s and I work exceedingly hard to recognize good work much more so than I do at demonizing poor work.
Why can’t we transpose these ideas to our own profession? We certainly have, in my estimation, proven the need to do it.
And if we want to point fingers at who has demonstrated this need, collectively, it is us. We have proven the need for our effectiveness/job performance/professional impact to be measured/assessed/evaluated/judged – choose whatever language you want – ourselves.
Individually, you may not feel you need it but holistically, when it comes to American education at large, this need is glaring.
The only real question left for me is, why do I feel so alone when I type this?