Name one profession that requires you have a college degree and then years of college credits throughout your career to maintain your license and will demand that you uphold the reputation of your profession daily in non-factual news reports.
Have you guessed yet? How about a profession that will put you under the attack of armchair quarterbacks who seem to know what it is like to oversee 90 people a day, yet most have never managed even a small group. If you guessed teacher, then you are right.
Why do we hold teachers to a ridiculous standard? Ever wonder, if we gave every employee at Ford Motor Company the 11th grade math and science test, and the majority of them failed, whether Alan Mulally, the brilliant CEO credited with saving the company that bears the name of the inventor of the automobile,to the same standard as we hold teachers, administrators and superintendents in our public schools? And would we actually believe Mulally was worth less than $100,000 a year? Would we deny him his health insurance, or demand that he pay for 10 percent of it at the same time cutting his salary? Would we really do this? If not, then why are we judging and evaluating professionals in education by testing the students they educate?
Do we really believe educators are responsible for feeding a student, making sure he or she has a home, and goes to bed at a decent hour.
When I was a board member of a Metro Detroit school district, I remember actually telling the parents complaining about test scores to show up and we would let them take the test. Many took the challenge, and most were college educated, some were even engineers, and they failed the 11th-grade math and science test we use in Michigan. I would have failed too and they had elected me to oversee a budget of almost $150 million dollars.
Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when talking about teacher effectiveness and test scores:
- Teachers go to work daily and touch the faces of the future. They ride to work in their own car to touch magic and our nation’s greatest asset, and they don’t need a billion dollar space shuttle.
- You can’t evaluate anyone on the performance of another. Read that sentence again and then apply it to your profession. Is that not the craziest thing?
- How do you compare students in one country to students in another country? You don’t! In the United States, we test ALL of our students. Most other countries test the top 10 percent. In fact, special education students in the U.S. are eligible to take the tests and only can opt out if their guardian makes that request.
- Are the kids in the U.S. taking the same test as kids in other countries? No. In some cases they are tested on harder material and some easier, but by no way would I call it a walk in the park.
- Are kids even taking the same tests from state to state? Is the kid in Michigan taking the test as the kid in Indiana? No? Then stop comparing.
We need to let educators, parents, and yes, students, figure out how to advance education. Believe me, education isn’t that far behind. If you don’t believe me, hand a five-year-old your digital camera or smart phone and see how fast he or she shows you what you are doing wrong and how to use it more effectively.