Dear Bill & Melinda,
A special education teacher in my school with 21 years of experience told me the other day she is calling it quits. She said she can no longer, in good conscience, administer useless standardized tests to her students knowing full well that they will never pass them—not because she is a ‘bad teacher’. On the contrary, she is an exceptional one. I have seen her work miracles with students who were violent, extremely low-functioning, or whose parents were apathetic or confrontational.
No, these students will never pass these tests because their brains are not wired for standardized tests. Many of them will never get beyond a 4th grade reading level in their adult lives. Not because they have a ‘bad teacher’, but because their brains are wired differently than yours or mine. And holding their teacher accountable for their success or failure on a standardized test is like holding the doctor of someone born without legs responsible for them not walking.
She is very upset. She does not want to leave teaching. She loves her students and our school, but she cannot continue to administer ‘bad medicine’ to good kids, and the education reforms that your foundation sponsors are very bad medicine indeed.
If your reforms are the cure to all that ails this country, if they truly are going to make this next generation of children ‘college and career ready’, why don’t your own children attend schools that must implement them? Why don’t your children attend schools with increased class sizes, slashed budgets, more standardized testing, less emphasis on the arts, foreign languages and physical education? Why don’t your children attend schools where teachers have had to take pay cuts or freezes, or been subjected to mass layoffs and closures? Why don’t your children attend schools where teachers’ Value Added scores are published in the local papers, or they spend more time teaching to the test instead of to the students?
These are not rhetorical questions. I would really like answers. If you want to change the world, shouldn’t you start at home?