Anxiety...this is what I feel when I listen to our state's new Secretary of Education. The man that is coming in says that he's "helped" Colorado by making testing scores a contingency on teacher salary.
I know those of you in education don't understand why this is a bad thing, let's break this down a bit. I know that in business a lot of you have standards that you must accomplish or you could get fired...you don't show up on time, you don't get your work done, you don't get along with others. In education - we do too. We have certain standards that we have to meet, some of us have a portfolio of work that we have to show to our administrators. We also have to go back to school or get further training - enough that we have 6 credits to renew our teaching license. We don't get paid to do this...we pay.
We already have a lot of the things that people in business careers have to do as well. Now what they want teachers to do is to take children and make them achieve on a test. Now let's think about this a bit. In an urban district, we have a lot of different students. Some of these students come from homes where their parents value education. They believe that education will help their children accomplish goals, become better people and live a decent life. We also have students that come from families that don't value education. They don't see what the point is...they get by with what they have, why isn't that good enough?
I eat with two of my colleages...every day. We talk about our little victories and defeats. One day the math teacher said that she was so proud of one of her students...he was really working hard! He was understanding the lessons, scoring well on the assessments and passing the quizzes! Then she said that she told him that he should be proud of his accomplishments...his response, "I know you're proud of me, that I get this and all, but I just don't care about school or any of this." She struggled to get him to try to realize what education can do for him. He still says that he doesn't care.
How do we get these students to pass an assessment? How do we get them to see the value of one test? How do we test them over and over and over and still ask them to take yet another test? This test is out of date. This test uses words that these kids don't use...that adults don't use as time has changed.
Districts, states, the nation...we are being asked to teach the test. We are being asked to make sure we teach everything that might possibly be on the assessment, whether we've gotten to that information or not and then we're being judged on this. Teachers aren't able to go back and reteach, we aren't able to show our own assessments as we check for understanding, we aren't able to have students that don't take tests well - because of time or a bad day or lack of skills - to show what they know THEIR way.
Every one learns differently...do you know this? Not everyone can sit through 90 minutes of class or a meeting or anything and listen to someone talk at you. I've been working with middle schoolers for 10 years now. I CAN'T SIT FOR 90 MINUTES....I let them get up, I'm ok with some of them putting their heads down, because I know they are still listening....I'm ok with them getting up occassionally and leaning against the wall.....anything to keep them engaged...to keep them learning.
The more I listen to these "so-called" experts about what teachers are supposed to do, the more upset and sick I get. Seriously sick to my stomach....it makes me again want to go onto the Senate and House floors and issue a challenge. A challenge for lawmakers to come into a classroom in an URBAN district and watch what we do. Watch what the kids are like....see what a special education teacher has to deal with - testing kids at a level they aren't at and ask them to be proficient.
When will we stop blaming teachers and start looking at homes, communities and society in general. I'm hoping that we can create a floodtide of education professionals that can come together and protest our treatment and help those not in the field to understand what we are being asked to do.