The Michelle Rhee school reform express came through Washington DC and left much carnage behind. Many teachers and administrators retired, quit, or were fired, and all in the name of the standardized tests. Now that Rhee is gone, and there is an investigation into test irregularities and complaints about students who scored well on the test, but were by no means proficient. It can be inferred that answers were changed from incorrect to correct, thus boosting the scores of several schools and raining down bonuses and praise for then Superintendent Rhee.
As an educator, I have ridden every educational wave of the past 30 years. The first 18 years as a public school student, and the last twelve either tutoring or teaching in some capacity. So I can say with a certainty that Mrs. Rhee did not encourage teachers to cheat directly. I am sure that she is as shocked as most who read the USA today article. I am not shocked. High Stakes testing is what truly needs to be reformed. When faced with the prospect of being fired or performing.. some will crack under the pressure. Is this right? Of course it is not. But when bonuses are tied to student performance, and job security is on the line, the ethical boundaries are often compromised.
Standardized tests have set a devastating precedent. All we want to hear is how well a school scored on a test. The raw data and the numbers are all that counts. Pundits and politicians alike have expressed the reformer’s view of why public education isn’t working. Everyone from the president to the media have diagnosed the problem to be teachers, and in the case of the media, the unionized teachers. Even President Obama says we are not innovative enough, and that is no surprise either, because thinking is not encouraged when students are only assessed via bubble sheet. The rush to produce measurable data defeats the purpose of learning. Research proves that over testing students doesn’t work. One only has to walk around the local mall, or your neighborhood fast food place to see that teaching to the test is not working. Students are no longer well rounded, and many can’t think or figure out how to maneuver situations without someone telling them explicitly what to do, and that is not shocking to me at all.
The Public Schools are compared to the schools all around the world, and our teachers and students have been found lacking. But did anyone stop to think that in other countries teachers are revered? Respected? Considered as Professionals? Of course that point is often missed. Teachers are entrusted with the country’s most important resource, but they are treated as if they are overpaid glorified baby sitters.
What makes someone a “good” teacher is often intangible. I had many good teachers, and they taught me to love reading, not read a book to take a test. They taught me how to do public speaking, and didn’t leave that out because it isn’t tested. They taught me lessons that I use in my daily life. There is no one size fits all approach to education! The reform movement is missing the point. The jobs of the 21st century are not being assessed by how well you test. They are being assessed by how well you perform and deliver results. Can you problem solve? Can you go beyond what is written and apply it? Don’t tie the hands of the teacher! Allow her to teach the kids where they are and help to mold them into the productive innovative citizens they need to be.