A quarterback throws a perfect spiral pass to his receiver. The timing is good and he leads his teammate so they can catch the ball in stride. The only problem is what if the receiver doesn't put up their hands to catch the ball? A teacher may present a good, solid lesson. He or she gives plenty of relevant examples and reviews the topic. But what about the kid who doesn't put out his hands to catch the intent of the lesson? Is it fair to evaluate a teacher's ability to reach today's students if the child makes no effort to learn?
Okay, suppose we address the kids who are hard workers. Let's go back to football. Suppose you are a hard-working player who excels at the high school level. Suddenly, you find yourself breaking the huddle to play defense and you're shocked to see that you are playing against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning is at quarterback. Here's the point: State Exams are above and beyond the level of capabilities for a good majority of our kids. Sure, some of the advanced and better skilled students can make a go of it, but for the average and especially the lower achieving students the task is overwhelming. Conscientious kids are simply in over their heads because the state exam is not age appropriate. We teachers know our students and we know their strengths and weaknesses. State Ed. does not. The problem again is that teachers are being held accountable and graded based upon the results of these exams. Is that fair?
Okay, here is one more example. What if the coaches are forbidden to see any film of their next opponent's previous games? They are not allowed to know anything about their opponents' tendencies or playing style. How are they to prepare? The State Education Department here in New York has forbidden us to keep past exams. The list of standards to teach are broad and vague and the questions are difficult for many students to understand. A multitude of tasks are often asked in a single problem. That's hard for most of our kids. Am I opposed to raising academic standards? Of course not! But a test should reflect what a child has been taught and it should not be designed to confuse and frustrate. For example, should a poor reader be judged on his math skills when they cannot decipher the question? Oh, that's right. The teacher is the one being judged. So how do we prepare?
So what is with all the secrecy and espionage concerning the state exams? I have a theory. The teachers union is one of the strongest unions in the country. And tenure is the foundation of our collective strength. I believe that the ambiguity of the state exams is a means to judge teachers, point to failing grades as proof of their incompetency and to show due cause that tenure should be eliminated. In a nutshell, I believe that the government is out to get us and break the union!
What do you think?