Late last week, I wrote a piece titled How Testing Will Change What I Teach Next Year. In it, I detail the 48 DAYS that I spent teaching high level skills — things like interpreting nonfiction text, evaluating the reliability of online sources, and building new knowledge through collaborative dialogue — that are in my curriculum but that WON’T be covered on the new high-stakes multiple choice tests that our state is using to evaluate teachers.
My core argument was a simple one: There’s a very real chance that I’m going to stop teaching anything that isn’t tested simply because I can’t risk the poor evaluations and terminating contracts that will come with low test scores.
Since then, I’ve gotten a ton of push back from practitioners who argue that guys like me are the problem in education. “What we REALLY need,” they say, “is teachers who have the courage to teach important skills even if they AREN’T tested! You need to be brave enough to put the children first.”
Is anyone else bothered by statements like those? Am I the only one who is tired of the suggestion that teachers must willingly add “sacrificial lambs” to their job descriptions in order to save today’s kids from the consequences of crappy #edpolicies?
Listen to most observers of education and they’ll tell you that they know full-well that the system our kids are learning in is toxic. They’ll tell you that the concepts and behaviors that matter most are being pushed aside because they can’t be tested. They’ll tell you that value-added models of teacher evaluation are unreliable. They’ll tell you that teachers who can get kids to pass tests are not the same as teachers who can prepare kids for success later in life.
And then they’ll tell you that the solution is for teachers to walk moral tightropes. If we’re good and honest and just and pure and brave, the collective narrative goes, we will willingly ignore the potential consequences — which range from terminating contracts to public humiliation — and “do the right thing for the children.”
That’s nuts, y’all.
When our best hope for change in education depends on individuals willing to completely subvert a dysfunctional system, it’s not teachers who need to change. It’s the policies and practices that govern their work.
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