It’s no secret that many of us who had high hopes that the Obama administration would start a meaningful conversation on re-envisioning education are feeling sorely disappointed these days. All of the hoopla over “The Race to the Top” as a catalyst of real “reform” is getting a bit much to take, and to be honest, I’m surprised that more educators aren’t voicing their displeasure at the idea of being paid based on the scores their students make on standardized tests (among other things.)
But I have to tell you, David Brooks’ column in the Times today literally sent a chill down my spine when I read the following paragraph:
The changes also will mean student performance will increasingly be a factor in how much teachers get paid and whether they keep their jobs. There is no consensus on exactly how to do this, but there is clear evidence that good teachers produce consistently better student test scores, and that teachers who do not need to be identified and counseled. Cracking the barrier that has been erected between student outcomes and teacher pay would be a huge gain.
Ok, there is just so much wrong with that sentiment that it’s hard to know where to start. How about the “there is no consensus on exactly how to do this” part. Why is that, do you think? Could it be that there might be, oh, I don’t know, a few dozen factors that impact a student’s performance on tests that have nothing to do with the teacher? And where exactly is this “barrier that has been erected between student outcomes and teacher pay”?
But if you’re a teacher and you read the part where teachers whose kids don’t get good test scores “need to be identified and counseled,” I can’t imagine how you could be feeling very good about your profession right now. Forget the relationships you build with those kids. Forget the love you give many of them that they may not be getting at home. Forget the way you try to help them navigate the complexity of their lives or their families or their relationships. Your kids don’t measure up on the test, you will be “identified” and “counseled.”
It’s a bit ironic that on the same page a day before, Thomas Friedman was espousing the idea that to fix the economy we have to fix the education system, and to fix the education system, we have to do more than focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. We also have to consider “entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.” Not that Friedman isn’t at times as much asea about education as Brooks, but seriously, is there a test for that? ‘Cause if there isn’t, and I’m a teacher trying to win the “race to the top,” how am I supposed to get my raise?
Is it me, or are we just sinking deeper into this dark, confined educational pit where every national conversation about “reform” lacks the “creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship” that we’re supposed to be teaching to and modeling for our kids?