There is a battle on the fields of education led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who believes test scores of students reveals information concerning who is or is not an effective teacher. I am now in my 54th year of teaching and as a professor of education have worked with over 13,000 classroom teachers I have taught teachers in the worse schools of New York City, teachers who work in wealthy suburban enclaves and spent years working with rural teachers. I taught in Harlem, in a small town in California and was a chairman of the social studies department in the third wealthiest school district of America. I assume this background has provided me with some knowledge as to how teachers teach and how students learn. Several years ago I took off from college teaching and taught high school in a white working class neighborhood that was receiving black students from the city of St. Louis as part of a desegregation program.
Simply stated, education, as is true in EVERY occupation has a ten percent at the top of the profession who are outstanding and a ten percent at the bottom who should be working at Wal-Mart. The majority are in between and their performance may rise with effective leadership or decline if working with incompetent principals.
Scenario I. A teacher in a wealthy high school whose students are motivated toward prestigious colleges will have students who perform high on any test, REGARDLESS OF THE TEACHER.
Scenario 2: A teacher at Thomas Jefferson HS in the slums of Brooklyn knows that only 30% of her students will EVEN GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL, let alone receive high test scores. The best teacher in the world will increase the number who do well on tests, but her students will not match student scores of Scenario 1.
Scenario 3: Mr. Smith has been teaching at the high school for twenty years. The principal assigns him classes of the more gifted students. His students score high on test scores. Ms. Jones is a new teacher and receives four teaching assignments and students who have limited success in taking tests. Her students do poorly on test scores and Arne Duncan wants her fired.
Scenario 4: I taught teachers involved in a Teacher Fellow program who included former lawyers, business people, and so on. By the end of the first year half had dropped out of education because the reality of teaching in tough neighborhoods was not what they expected to be their reality.
QUESTION: ARE WE EVALUATING THE RIGHT THINGS?
RESPONSE: We are not educating students for life in the 21st century. We are having them memorize information that fits with life in the 20th century.
CONCLUSION: WE ARE NOT EVALUATING EFFECTIVENESS OF TEACHERS IN TERMS OF WHETHER THEY PREPARE YOUTH FOR 21ST CENTURY LIFE.