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11 December 2014 @ 08:53 am
Take a number  
I will confess that I love math. I always have enjoyed most of the math classes I took (notable exception: geometry which confounded me then). I love playing with numbers (Sudoku). But I do draw the line in terms of where numbers are not quite as dependable and exact. Such is the case for measuring "achievement."

A recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post contains three misstatements in the opening paragraph (which is only 3 sentences long): "RESEARCH HAS shown that the single most important factor in helping children learn is the quality of their teachers. So it is a big problem when graduates of teacher education programs are ill-prepared to deal with the demands of the classroom. The Obama administration’s move to develop new standards of accountability for teacher preparation programs is a step in the right direction that will help both students and teachers." Here is the link to the article itself: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rating-teacher-preparation-programs-is-a-plus-for-students-and-teachers/2014/12/06/9ae22c0a-759b-11e4-a755-e32227229e7b_story.html?utm_content=buffer39a55&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

The most important factor in learning is not the teacher. Studies also point to parents, home, poverty, and other factors as influential. But it is simpler to point to the teacher as the most important when you are making a case to go after said teachers, their unions, and their preparation programs. But it does make me wonder. If the teacher is critical, why, then, do reformists demur when it comes to better pay and working conditions? Why do they tout TFA which offers 4-5 weeks of "training" for teachers? I feel rather like Dorothy in the WIZARD OF OZ when she is told not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Second statement: teachers graduate ill-prepared for classroom demands. Yes, that first step into a classroom where there are no supervisors (and often no mentors) who can debrief with you after a lesson are scary. Thins do not always go as planned. But that happens to me still today after almost 40 years of teaching. Was it because I was ill-prepared? Nope. It has more to do with the fact that each class and each child needs something a bit different from me. It is because things CHANGE. Kids are not widgets on an assembly line. I cannot discard one because he or she does not meet the specs.

Third statement: the new proposal for accountability is a step that most agree is WRONG. VAM has been largely discredited. Yet, somehow, Arne Duncan plans to hang his hat on it. I wonder if he would hang his hat on ONE way to play basketball? One offense, one defense? Or would he argue for using different strategies depending on the game, the players, even the venue?

There is much more wrong with this editorial of course. It relies on the NCTQ report for much of its misinformation. Shoddy research seems to be the type of research preferred by reformists and journalists these days. Start any sentence with the phrase "research shows," and some journalist will run with it as if it were gospel truth. Truth is, there is much out there masquerading as research. It is, in reality, thinly veiled attacks on teachers and teacher education in general.

Thankfully, most of the comments on the article attempt to set the record straight. If only the paper would print them as readily as they print the editorials that present the lies and misstatements about education. And if only journalists would do their job and ferret out the truth about the "research."
 
 
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