There are some things in a teacher’s day that can’t be measured by data.
Like giving her life to save her students. Or calmly rounding 15 or 20 children into closets, corners and bathrooms when there’s a mad killer in the hallways. What about having the composure to read a story or tell kids they are loved so that gun shots won’t be the last thing they hear in their baby lives?
I wonder, do the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School meet professional standards as set down by Race to the Top, Obama’s signature education initiative? How did their students perform on last year’s high stakes tests. Did they make annual yearly progress?
On Sunday, President Obama said:
If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.
One step we can take is to delete our near reverence for data in education. These days teachers are rewarded for being little more than test prep technicians. From September to May, teachers pass out worksheets to practice taking high stakes tests. It is dreary, artless work. There is no time for authentic literature, social studies or science. Before the testing craze, school was a place for children to learn about their world, its communities and how individuals survive , interact and grow. There is no longer any time for group problem solving activities or learning how to end bullying.
Special education students are further marginalized by testing. Last year, I was a special education teacher in a large urban charter school. For several weeks special education students were removed from class while their typically developing peers had intensive MCAS prep. We were told that getting rid of these kids “was a dream come true.” They were corralled into rooms with aids because “the kids who could pass the test should work with certified teachers.”
I’m not saying that the testing craze causes kids, especially those with learning disabilities, to grow up to be mass killers. But it can certainly alienate them further from experiencing success and a sense of belonging. Not to mention preventing them from really learning about their world.
What I am saying is that those beautiful young teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School who died for their students are truly representative of teachers all across America. And their job is way too important to be judged by test scores. Data will never measure their immense value.
Of course gun control and solid support for people with mental illness come first. But allowing teachers to nurture their students’ innate love of learning without fear of low test scores now feels like a matter of life and death.
Post by Nancy Bloom.