Yesterday I had a massive computer meltdown and I know it's supposed to be TEDTuesday, but I have been thinking about this post all weekend and I've decided I really need to say something, but before I do, let me tell you a story.
Consider Mary. Mary enrolled in Weight Watchers. Every week she went to a meeting and weighed in. One week she went in and did really well. She lost 5 pounds! Everyone gave her high fives. She even won the weekly award for the group! Woo hoo! The next week she weighed in, but she only lost 2 pounds. Now 2 pounds is still awesome, but it was not as good as the previous week so the group ridiculed her. It turns out that they expected her to lose more and more weight every week. It didn't take Mary long to quit the group.
Am I crazy or does this seem silly? It doesn't make sense to ask people to continally lose more and more weight. It also makes no sense to ridicule her efforts,. Most people respond pretty poorly to ridicule. If Mary were on The Biggest Loser, I might think about this scenario differently, but this is not a game show and no Weight Watchers program would ever do such a thing.
Now consider Simone Ryals. In 2012 she was a state finalist for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Program. Her students did exceptionally well in science, many earning top scores, 5's on the State Science exam, an exam that has a 40% passing rate.
But this year the state raised the standards on the test so that students must score even higher to earn a 5. This I understand. States are in the business of slowly raising standards, of pushing kids further and further in the hopes that we can get American education back on track. Simone's students still did well, but they did not score as highly on the State Science exam. Her students earned more 4s and 5s that were not quite as high.
What yanks my chain is that Simone's students' lower scores mean that she is now ranked as an inferior teacher. Despite the fact that her students still more than passed the exam that 60% failed, she is inferior. And worse, her name will be published in the local papers so that parents will know which teachers are "great" and those that are "inferior."
Look, I get it. We are all trying to improve education. Parents want information and test scores may seem like a good way to measure a teacher's effectivness. But it's not that simple and anyone with a lick of sense knows that we need teachers like Simone Ryals. We can continue to measure a teacher's effectiveness by a single test score, to force teachers to work in a rigged system, or we can do better and create a system that is fair and helps all teachers and students improve. Our kids deserve it. Simone Ryals deserves it. Anyone who disagrees should feel free to become a 5th grade science teacher. If we don't change the system, we're going to need them.