Friday, September 10, 2010

Grading the Teacher - What's the Agenda?

The recent publication by the LA times of a ranking of teachers based on so-called "value added" scores should frighten not only education professionals the world over, but the rest of society too.

While the mantra continues to be "accountability", it is not hard to see the real agenda.

First off, the ranking is based on increases to standardized test scores of the students in a teacher's class. This assumes that the job of teaching is about increasing standardized test scores and the purpose of schooling is to maximize every student's ability to score well on a standardized test. What happened to learning pro-social behaviours? Critical thinking? Understanding democratic principles? Exploring the arts, music, drama and sports? Are these irrelevent?

This is truly the scariest thing about these rankings - they suggest that the purpose of education is limited only to an extremely narrow set of skills designed to enable people to perform relatively simple tasks in a job. Forget the democratic society and reaching one's potential - be it in strings, sculpture or hockey. Only reading, writing and math are what count.

Of additional concern to teachers, but also all professionals, is the notion that we be regulated by our "clients" who "shop" for the best. Professions are based on the notion that EVERY member of the profession meets a certain high standard. This is why we have professional bodies that regulate our members and ensure that those standards are maintained. Would we want to choose an airline flight by looking up a ranking of pilots before each flight and picking the best one? Of course not. Who would want the pilot at the bottom of the list. We want every pilot to meet a very high standard, and we want the same of teachers.

And lest we think this is just some crazy American phenomenon, check out the commentary up here by Margaret Wente  And by the way, I notice she doesn't propose a ranking of journalists.

Or if you'd rather read an interesting commentary, check out Alfie Kohn, an educational researcher, here:

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