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21 February 2013 @ 06:36 pm
WaPo column on teacher job satisfaction  
Valerie Strauss' column on education in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/) examined the latest results of a survey of American teachers. Here is the quote that struck me:

Half of America’s public school teachers say they feel great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 and is at its lowest in 25 years, according to an annual survey of educators.

The 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which is being released today, has more bad news about the effects of modern school reform: Only 17 percent of teachers and 22 percent of principals are very confident that the Common Core State Standards, an initiative supported by the Obama administration that is being implemented in most states, will actually improve student achievement.

What I see here is some correlation between CCSS and the demoralization of classroom teachers. And of course I have seen that same correlation between demoralization and state tests here in Texas (we are not a CCSS state). When I see some of the statistics about the number of instructional days given over to benchmarking, practice testing, and testing itself now that EOC is adding tons of new tests, I a
m demoralized, and I am not in that classroom. But we see this incredible reliance on numbers and scores even at the highest levels of education as well. My pay increases are tied to student evaluation of my teaching (all online). Our certification depends on our students passing state certification exams at a certain level. It has all become a numbers game.

The problem with the focus on numbers and value added and test scores and all the other ways we attempt to reduce education to numbers is this: behind each and every number is a very real person: teacher, student, administrator, parent, etc. We have had the discussion here of late about lexiles and levels (and we had a lively back and forth on Twitter recently about "programs" that promise higher reading scores if you just buy their program) and how numbers are seldom if ever a good measurement of an artistic endeavor. Taking a work of literature and reducing it to syllables and sentences and syntax and semantics will yield a score all right, but it will never be an accurate measure of the complexity or value or audience of the book. Likewise, taking a kid and reducing her or him to scores and numbers or taking a teacher and doing the same with some value added formula can never be an accurate reflection of the individual.

I think there is something else behind these numbers: the vilification of education by union-busting politicians, the top down insistence on standards where educators had little input (by educators I mean folks who are actually IN a classroom and have some experience teaching), the treatment of teachers are simply conveyors of skill lessons who should follow the script and not do too much thinking: I think these things also add to the statistics we see in the latest surveys.

For those of you still doing UNprograms, for those who are taking the standards they are handed and working them into your existing reading/writing workshop, and for those of you who are placing kids at the forefront of your thinking and teaching, all I can say is THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.
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