Recently, I was considering this recent craze to evaluate teachers using students’ test scores.
I can still recall the results from my fourth-grade standardized test: an impressive 7.2 grade level. I pondered if I was ready for the seventh grade, but a teacher explained that a seventh-grader taking this test would have made roughly the same score that I did. I must admit, it still made me feel good.
I do remember, however, that as good as that score was, it was never used to evaluate the incomparable Mrs. Pratt, a wonderful lady who inspired me to follow in her footsteps. The test measured MY skills, and while I’m not minimizing Mrs. Pratt’s incredible teaching, those scores were only partially inspired by her. I had two loving parents who insisted that I do homework, share it with them and study for tests. I had a middle-class upbringing, and though a skinny, awkward kid, I was fed well and never wanted for anything.
My point is this: Mrs. Pratt was ONE piece of a complicated puzzle. It would be insane and reckless to try to assign the entirety of that test score to her.
But that is PRECISELY what we do today. Not only is it shameful, it’s abusive to these people in this noble profession.
The latest reformer fad is to label teachers with a number, and part of that number MUST come from student scores. If our students are failing, it MUST be the teachers’ fault. Never mind parental involvement, home environment, socioeconomic status or a host of other factors. Teachers MUST be blamed, branded and banished.
We don’t judge dentists based on their patients’ cavities, do we? We don’t evaluate doctors on their patients’ poor food choices, do we? We don’t gauge lawyers based on their clients’ actions, do we? Then why is it OK to threaten teachers based on the performance of their students?
How can we evaluate teachers? That difficult question can’t be tackled easily.
About four years ago, only 4 percent of Louisiana teachers were rated unsatisfactory. Reformers then spent millions creating a new, four-tiered, evaluation system, and what has that hard work produced? Last year, 4 percent of teachers were ranked ineffective, same as four years ago.
What a grand waste of our time and money. That indescribable quality in good teachers is as elusive as a moonbeam or a ray of sunshine.
When I saw Mrs. Pratt some time ago, I told her how wonderful it was to be a teacher. Today, I don’t know if I would dare enter such an abusive relationship, where I would be scapegoated for a host of issues over which I have little control.