I am a huge fan of teacher autonomy. Trust me on this. I used to be a pariah, now I am considered an innovator. Either way, it’s my own internal teaching compass which always drives my class and if you look at all the writing I have done, I really don’t feel the need to open this post with a defense of myself on this front.
I believe I can be taken at my word – I am a HUGE fan of teacher autonomy.
However, teacher autonomy has wrought having scores of unfit boneheads in the classroom and they are doing so much damage — and they operate with virtual impunity in an unchecked manner that’s making almost a mockery of teaching as a profession… to say nothing of how the application of common sense employment guidelines are being kicked to the curb – and there needs to be reform.
Is the federal government’s desire to measure teacher effectiveness really an oligarchical march to power with an eye towards submarining democracy? Sure, the point actually has a small speck of merit because politicians are psychos… but to me, this is about “How do I know that the 9th grade English teacher down the hall isn’t checking her Facebook page all day instead of actually educating the children in her room?”
Because that is what is really going on out there.
And so, do we stall efforts at reforming the system so that the people who are literally stealing from our kids and taxpayers get outed and addressed or do we get mired in fighting off the shadows of potential dystopia through ceding to a measurement system?
Personally, I don’t even think the decision is a close call.
We really, right now, have a segment of teachers that do not deserve to be in the classroom. We also have a segment of teachers that are rock stars. And we have practically no means of knowing who is who. As a result, we are worse off for it. The top teachers can be empowered to expand their influence and the bottom teachers can be reigned in to re-adjust theirs, if we were only to know, who is who.
Now, if this means I am setting myself up to be an unwitting lemming that empowers the forces of oligarchy to finally seize control of democracy once and for all, then I think what really has come to pass is that we have lost the ability to apply some common sense to this issue.
I need to know if the sixth grade teacher down the hall is actually teaching pre-algebra to her kids or if she’s playing soduku.
CAUSE THAT IS WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON!
And if she’s the universe’s most awesome pre-algebra teacher, the pied piper of factoring equations, maybe she should be turned to as a thought leader on this subject area so that others can learn from her methods?
That’s what I believe measuring teacher effectiveness is all about.
One one hand it’s about outing the lemons. On the other hand it’s about taking advantage of our best talent to expand their “sphere of influence”.
And for those in the middle — most of us — it’s about identifying ways to see our strengths, recognize our weaknesses and see how we can better grow as professionals.
But there’s no trust. That’s what the conspiracy theories illuminate for me. We believe nefarious evil-doers are at the gate waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting sheep who lower their democratic guard for a minute.
Naahhhh. It’s about the fact that our entire system is riddled by a lack of trust. We don’t trust our federal government, we don’t trust our school districts, we don’t trust administrators and we hardly trust one another.
It’s like an overweight person getting on a scale. Only the people this person trusts get to see the number of pounds posted. And if you are forced on the scale, it’s an exercise in shame.
But if you can get the person to the scale willingly – because they trust that you are there to help them become more healthy, lose some weight, let go of some issues that are interfering with their ability to be better — you can make some real headway.
How can we really see where we are and learn how to improve if we are so unwilling to actually see where we are?
This is not about dystopian power plays. This is about common sense. People are being paid to do jobs. How are they doing?
We have no means of answering that question and it’s a gaping hole.