I'm a teacher of some of the 52,000 public school children currently attending school at one of Chicago's charter schools -- specifically, I work at the UNO Soccer Academy campus of the UNO Charter School Network. I teach math, science and social studies to 64 eighth-graders and have done so for the past year. Every single person in my school -- from the administration to the teachers to the maintenance staff -- works long, hard hours for the children we serve.
So do thousands upon thousands of teachers across Chicago. No one becomes a teacher because they think it's easy money -- and not understanding that idea is fundamentally the problem with the current state of education reform in this country. The people in power think that teachers are motivated by carrots and sticks: reward them with small bonuses for students' high standardized test scores and punish them with threatened pay cuts and loss of job security when the children's test scores drop. But teachers don't become teachers because they are motivated by purely financial reasons; rather, teachers become teachers because they believe deeply in the power of education to improve the lives of others.
Teachers viscerally understand what it means to battle daily for the hearts and minds of our youth. Getting eighth-graders to think critically (or even to do long division properly) is no easy task!
Teachers also understand that the tools used to measure learning are complex and difficult to get right. During my first year of teaching, I had to throw out more than one set of test grades upon realizing that I hadn't actually written a question that measured what I intended it to measure, and therefore it would be unfair to the students to ask them to bear the burden of my incompetence at writing excellent test items. Truly measuring student learning is multi-faceted and cannot be properly done with bubble-in-the-answer tests.
I absolutely believe that it is my job to make sure students learn, and if they're not learning, I'm not teaching. But as a scientist, I also know that if the tool with which you are doing the measuring is flawed, then it's impossible to achieve high quality results from your experiment. We need to build better tools before we tie the measurement results of those tools to teacher pay, teacher tenure and teacher promotion.
I will get to school early tomorrow, as I do every weekday, to make sure I am prepared to be the best teacher I can be for my students. As I do so, I will salute those teachers who are marching outside of schools across the city, sacrificing in the short term to improve education for their students and their future students in the long run.
This blog post is part of HuffPost Chicago's "State of CPS" series, which features perspectives from Chicago Public School teachers, students, administrators, staff, parents and others experiencing recent changes to the district firsthand. Interested in sharing your take? Email us at email@example.com.
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