- This is Not the Way it Should Feel to Teach - December 2, 2020
- Remote Elementary Teaching Sucks. Get Over It and Prepare for Survival - October 27, 2020
- Betsy Devos Need to Spend More Time In Real Schools with Real Teachers - September 8, 2020
- Teaching from Home Part 2: Using Google Classroom to Stay Semi Connected - April 9, 2020
- Teaching from Home: Tips for Focusing on Results- One Teacher's Reflection - March 29, 2020
- A Pandemic Brings Opportunity to Rethink Standardized Testing - March 23, 2020
- Getting Students to Write (Part 1) - August 7, 2019
- Why I Worry About My Students - July 9, 2019
- Activists Are Needed in Education - May 13, 2019
- Your Students and Video Games: Adult Supervision Required - April 29, 2019
The selective and convenient use of VAM (valued added measures) by reform advocates, along with other statistics lingo, has helped to frost over the veritable turd cake of ill-conceived reform efforts and the lack of accountability in areas it's sorely needed. It's true that there is no excuse for giving up on the obligation to help children learn- for anybody. Especially not for teachers (who are doing it every day). Poverty is no excuse. Having difficult and disruptive students is not an excuse. That more children are struggling with abandonment, separation and divorce is not an excuse either. None of these things are excuses for not helping a child, any child, to learn.
Chronic transiency as parents are chased out by or choose to run away from late rents and bill collectors is not an excuse. Poor pre-natal care or destructive health habits of the pregnant mother, chronic hunger and poor nutrition are not excuses. Substance abuse, addiction, neglect...none of these is an excuse. When violent “M-rated” video games outnumber books in the home, and when hours connected to a screen outside of school outnumber hours connected to positive human influences in and out of school combined: not an excuse. When there is rarely a role model or guardian available to support the completion of academic work or transmit the intrinsic value of academic goals...yep, you guessed it: not an excuse. As a teacher, there is no choosing to ignore the mission you accepted. Poverty is not an excuse teachers can use to “opt out” of helping all children to learn. The impacts and consequences of poverty and/or conditions of a student’s home life do not free a teacher from the obligation to teach. As a school, when you are challenged by a high percentage of students facing these challenges-you have no excuses, and shouldn’t. It is your job to help children make progress.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"]It is your job to help children make progress. Click To Tweet
So how do we as a society demonstrate our dedication to making academic and life outcomes more equitable for these students? When there is an immeasurable amount of data demonstrating that these factors and more impact developing bodies, brains, academic achievements and life outcomes-how do we measure and define the value a teacher and a school bring to the lives of these learners despite the challenges...you know, how do we make sure the profession isn’t “opting out” while quietly giving a "pass" to social and economic policies and the wealthy that craft them?
With “grit”, “rigor”, and tests for the masses and their public servants!
Oh, and accountability and consequences.
I know, I know...the unwilling naysayers out there; the overpaid and overprotected unionized teachers out there that enjoy the due process and tenure protections that a growing class of indentured servants doesn’t have; the supposed professional teachers reluctant to listen to politicians, business managers, television personalities and private school profiteers that look to redirect public dollars to a privately managed education market of choices...These wet blankets will and do complain that a snapshot summative test, an extended, seated and silent moment in time isn’t a fair measure to use when there are so many of those other influences on student performance. Careers could be ended unfairly. Well then...To make it fair and just we add more tests and collect more data! That's adding value...you remember-Value ADDED Measures, according to those number-minded folks. The more numbers you use to define humans the more valuable those numbers become.
Do the humans become more valuable? Well...the data will get collected, put through a couple wash and tumble-dry cycles and they'll get back to you. To meet the data demand, or to keep the data laundering profitable, teachers are sometimes now administering tests that are made for a particular grade level, but have items and passages at a reading level sometimes two or more grade levels above that grade. Sometimes many levels above the “zone of proximal development” (or ZPD) for struggling readers or students with learning disabilities. But we are told it’s okay because results are normative, based on a student growth percentile (SGP) and comparisons are made between “like peers”-a cohort that shares numerous characteristics (age, grade level, socioeconomic status...).
So how does inclusion of a myriad of data justify an evaluative and possibly firing-worthy correlation?
It has to do with who can be held responsible, and who refuses to be held responsible. It has to do with two classes of people:
1) A working class including educated professionals that consistently and daily steps up to the plate to try whatever they can to make a difference, (while being historically left out of the development of standards and accountability design process); and
2) Another class of people, well connected to money and politics but disconnected from the profession, that can see a path to profit while protecting themselves.
But there is no excuse for giving up on the obligation to help children learn, for anybody-especially those connected to or have chosen to connect themselves to the endeavor. So the scope of reform, especially if VAM is to be less of a sham and become a validation, needs to be widened. The narrative needs to reach beyond the evasion tactics of all of the additional things teachers need to be held responsible for, and mirror supposed common-core critical thinking: include the leveraging of a new breed of education non-profits to impact and reform social and economic policy and support families, homes and communities.
So when writing, sharing, propagating, supporting, and liking all of the angles on how to improve teachers, shame teachers, replace teachers (and make no mistake, I have met a few whose value I question but the reform narrative has had an obsessive focus on teachers and unions):don’t be so dismissive and evasive regarding of what I read of as “the inevitable Finland comparison”-speculations over how a more equitable and respectful approach to education leads to better overall outcomes. Maybe start asking why comparison to China, India, and Singapore come up often, but Finland does not.
For truly VAMMY accountability, widen that scope and share that burden. Use connections, money, and influence to make policy makers know that there will be consequences for them as well, and that there shall no longer be quarter in the revolving door between political appointments, corporations, non-profits, and the selective and convenient use of VAM.