Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Profiles in Heroism, from the San Jose Mercury News letters page
Dwelling on tests hurts schools
Why should we be surprised that there are too many ``green'' teachers in schools in poor communities? State and No Child Left Behind testing programs have for years required publication of test-score ratings that label schools in these communities ``failing'' or ``underperforming.''
This causes teachers in such schools to leave in droves, taking early retirement in many cases. They leave because their heroic efforts to educate children who grow up under intractable family and community conditions not only go unrewarded, but are publicly labeled as ``failing.''
Setting higher test score standards is no answer to improving quality of education. It simply impairs the vision and accountability of legislatures.
Victor W. Doherty
Well I know that the first thing I look for in a hero is the propensity to give up at the first sign of criticism! Cast the medals!
Obviously the solution is to do away with all standardized testing. Besides, failing students is bad for self-esteem.
The problem is many teachers in poorer communities are expected to perform many other functions than teaching -- feeding, sheltering, giving medical care, dealing with discipline problems, teaching english to people who don't know it -- as well as teaching them their subject. It's no _wonder_ that students there don't perform as well, overall, on standardized tests. And then teachers who are putting out all this extra effort are publicly labeled as having failed. No wonder they leave.
Do educators really believe that they are all that stand between their charges and a career in, say, garment child labor? Or is it just an annoying variety of self-pity? ("Sheltering"?) Do they not mention in education classes that being with little kids for six hours a day necessarily entails some aspects of day care?
But even if we do grant that teachers are incredibly overworked and have to act as substitute parents, why would they put up with such a huge additional workload -- but quit their jobs at the first sign of criticism in the paper? My employer is sometimes criticized in the media; it doesn't make me burst into tears and submit my resignation.
Yet another example of unprofessional teacher's whining. So many teachers whine because "We're not considered professionals." Nearly all of them either don't realize, or conveniently ignore, that one element of being a professional is that you are held legally responsible for your product.
Lawyers and physicians, our two largest groups of professionals, can be sued when they malfease, but not teachers. Actually, now that I think of it, I'm surprised that the ABA isn't in the vanguard of making teachers professionals.
Far too many teachers want to be adulated for their "heroism" without being held accountable for their results, which is, after all, what standardized testing is about. It is valid for teachers, and others, to complain about the specifics of a testing regimen, but not the concept of accountability.
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