Critiques on social and education issues
Education is a bizarre arch-nemesis. Politicians like to pan-handle voters with serenades of education reforms claimed to be revolutionary. Parents claim that education is the most important, but constantly criticize the profession of teaching, especially when teachers get their collective bargaining rights stripped away from them. Is education a friend or foe? No one is sure.
From what I gather, education today is that rich kid you don’t really like at school, but you try to befriend him anyway because he gets you into the best clubs in town.
After decades of angry parents and agonized teachers, the Gates Foundation believes they have found the key ingredients to making a great teacher.
To summarize, the Foundation combined test scores, student survey evaluations, value-added stat measures, and peer and principal evaluations to form an overall score for said teacher.
In Layman’s terms from Reddit (but cleaned for vulgarity):
Washington Post does not elaborate (if mention at all) the methodology behind the research. This project took 3 years and spent $45 million. This money could have been put to better use.
The intentions were good, but these “results” were unenlightening at best.
True teaching is not about scores. Before I have pragmatists burn down my door, I want to clarify that I do believe we need to find a reasonable negotiation between teaching from the heart and teaching to a curriculum.
There is no doubt that there are key elements that make a good teacher, but the idea that test scores can measure the human profession of teaching is beyond insulting to the entire profession. Educators in the field, student teachers included, know that teaching is much more profound and complex than a number on a sheet.
Teachers are in loco parentis, that is, acting as a parent to the child during school hours. Being a parent is not about the score. Parenting is about understanding that the child has complex emotional events in his or her life, and helping them through their troubles. Similarly, teaching is about caring about the child and listening to their problems as well. Many teachers know more about the child than the parent does, not only due to the long school day, but also because teachers are trained to talk with children and to create a nurturing environment for learning to occur.
This article does not even mention the cognitive differences of the students, nor any part of the methodology. Which schools were chosen, and how? What standards did they use to increase the level of difficulty in the “more complicated tests of their conceptual math knowledge and reading and writing abilities”? Which students were tested? Special ed, IEP, mainstream, gifted? What were the SES of these students, their families, the teachers, and the community?
What type of tests did they use? What do they look like?
There are so many variables that were not mentioned at all.
The study does not discuss equitable teaching practices either, since they are not quantifiable. Is it good teaching when a teacher marks differently a child’s poetry assignment isn’t a poem, but is a run-on sentence describing the night before when his parents were fighting over a lost job? What happens when a child comes in hungry, and does an assignment incorrectly? What would the “good teacher” do, according to the test scores?
Test scores are not everything.
It truly is frightening that the Gates Foundation, founded by two very intelligent people with such rich cultural capital, have used a strictly quantitative method to “judge” good teachers. Teaching deals with complex emotional issues that are very real for children and youth. It is beyond teaching what the World War I was, or the parts of an onion cell.
There does need to be some type of evaluation for teachers, but a strictly quantitative method is certainly not the answer. Teaching is a job that is highly qualitative: it requires knowing the subjects personally to be able to make an equitable judgement.
To assume that the elements of a good teacher can be quantified into test scores (of all things!) demonstrates a shamefully shallow understanding of the profession. This study did not bring in any new knowledge. Rather, due to the strong cultural capital of the Gates Foundation, the cult-like religion of test-worshippers only gains more support, and is strongly reinforced in mainstream culture. North America is already saturated in the belief of test scores.
This is highly insulting to the profession, and a true embarrassment to the Gates Foundation.
This is one step back for humankind.