I love my cherubs. But I also love my job.
Perhaps you've heard the yammering of late concerning the President's Race to the Top initiative. It involves, among other things, compensating teachers when their students perform well on standardized tests. Or firing them when the kids bomb these paper and pencil exercises.
The concept that conceived Race to the Top is a good one. Get all 50 states on the same page when it comes to student achievement. Identify those who need the most help, so they won't be "left behind." Then, there is the goal that's closest to my heart...and to my pocketbook: "Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers," etc., etc.
This is where Mr. Obama and I disagree. He wants to measure a teacher's success by the number of students who pass a series of state-mandated tests every year. If the teacher's kiddos succeed, she gets the big money, in the form of modest compensation. If a pre-determined number fails, however, she might get the boot.
The DC Public Schools have already jumped on the bandwagon, firing 241 teachers last week because of what bureaucrats deem "poor performance." Much of these teachers' performance, however, has to do with the fact that many of their students did not fare well at bubbling in answers on a standarized test.
When a child goes out in public~to school, to the playground, to the mall~and misbehaves, the general consensus is that the parents may have been hitting the snooze button while on the job.
But when a child goes to school and bubbles in "c" instead of "d" on a pre-printed form, often the teacher is blamed. And more and more, those teachers are being held accountable for something they just cannot control.
Every year, more and more emphasis is placed on standardized testing. Our Humble High School, where I just finished my 16th year of teaching, is no different. We jump through so many hoops to make sure our students pass that often we have very little time to allow the kids to stop and contemplate what they're learning.
All of my cherubs passed what are called the English Standards of Learning (SOLs) last year. So, under President Obama's plan, I would be paid for a 100 percent pass rate. And if I had been working in the DC school system, I assume I would still have a job.
But several of my students passed by the skin of their teeth. Not because of any lack of effort on my part, but because of the way they are hard-wired. Some have test anxiety; some learning disabilities; some, quite frankly, don't have the grey matter to succeed on even some of the simplest of academic exercises.
Is this my fault? I don't think so. I also don't believe that a standardized test can calibrate the overall intelligence of a student body, nor the due diligence of a teacher. And while I'd welcome the extra money for my students' SOL pass rate, I'm not quite sure I deserve it. But I also don't believe that a standardized test can measure the true value of a good teacher.