August 1, 2013
The past two weeks I have been awash in curriculum, instruction, common core, lesson plans and assessments. And somewhere amid the buzz of my classroom management skills and the buzz of my morning coffee are my students; my beautiful, exhausting, endearing adolescents. What more could a girl ask for? Well, for starters, how about communities that revere teachers? And while we’re at it, how about a salary based on my actual job performance in the classroom and not a salary tied to students’ test scores?
“Excuse me, Miss Teacher. May I interrupt you, please? I am a parent of a middle school student. I am also a part of your community and I respect teachers. Now as far as your salary goes, I voted to give you teachers a raise. But, I want some accountability. I want to make sure you are doing your job. So, before you get any more of my hard-earned, tax dollars, I need to see results; I need to see a rise in student test scores. If you are doing your job, your students should be able to pass a simple reading and writing test, right?”
Pardon me, dear Readers, while I ‘school’ my interloper.
Thank you Miss Middle School Parent for your well-intentioned comments. May I respond? Although I firmly believe in accountability, high stakes test results are not an accurate measure of my job performance. If you want to know whether or not I am a good teacher, come watch me teach. First, see how well-prepared I am. One look at my white boards and you know what I’m teaching, how I’m teaching it, and how it relates to the standards the state says I have to teach. And watch how I explain the same concept three, even four different ways so that all of my students ‘get it.’ Now, watch as I connect for my students, how they can apply this newly learned knowledge on any standardized test they may have to take. And finally, see the way I explain to them how they can use this knowledge in the real world? This is my job performance, this is why I deserve a raise, and this is why I deserve a little bit more of our tax dollars.
“Ok Miss Teacher, so on the surface you appear to be a good teacher. But look at the state’s reading and writing test scores. I mean, you are the reading and writing teacher, right? If you are such a good teacher, why are the test scores so low? How can my student be passing your class and still fail the state exam? I don’t understand. Someone’s not doing something, and you’re the teacher, it’s your responsibility to make sure my student learns what he is supposed to in order to pass the test. Should you really get a raise when the students perform so poorly?”
You bring up some very valid concerns Miss Middle School Parent. Let me take them one at a time. I should get a raise based on my job performance, not your student’s performance on his test. Let’s say I worked in a business office and I was tasked by my manager to teach a new employee how to do certain office functions. I take my job seriously, so I am fully prepared to teach the new employee the ropes. I even go to the trouble of making handouts and having the newbie take notes. My boss compliments me on my job performance and I get that raise I wanted. Now let’s say New Employee forgets what I taught him. In fact, he even leaves his notes and his handouts in the break room, doesn’t even bother to take them home to study. The next day, he fails to correctly perform even one of the office functions I so painstakingly taught him. Should I still get my raise? Of course I should. But, what about New Employee’s poor job performance; shouldn’t someone be held accountable? Yes, New Employee should be held accountable. You see Miss Middle School Parent, being a good teacher doesn’t automatically translate into high test scores. There are numerous reasons why some students perform poorly on standardized tests: not enough studying, not enough sleep, too many responsibilities at home, not enough responsibilities at home, family issues, too much pressure, etc., etc., etc. I have no control over such issues and therefore should not be held accountable when outside influences inhibit my students’ test performances.
“Well Miss Teacher, I guess you’re right. But listen, I don’t like that you are pointing your finger at students’ home life. Are you saying that my student’s low test scores are my fault? I know that’s not what you’re saying! I work hard to give my student everything he needs to stay in school and get good grades. I don’t need his teachers accusing me of being a bad parent.”
Just as I don’t need my students’ parents accusing me of being a bad teacher.
“Ok Miss Teacher, what do we do now?”
Well Miss Middle School Parent, I really think we are off to a good start. I respect you as a parent and you respect me as a teacher. I trust that you are doing everything as a parent to help your student learn. I hope you trust that as his teacher, I am also doing everything I can to help him learn.
“So if I am doing everything I can as a parent, and you are doing everything you can as a teacher, why the low test scores? Like I said before, somebody’s not doing something.”
(Should I tell her, dear Readers? Naw, she’d never believe that her student is the somebody that’s not doing the something. And so it goes. Peace, ~v.)