To the Editor,
This is in response to John Hood’s column titled “Pay Teachers on Results, Not Degrees.”
Students aren’t motherboards on assembly lines and teachers aren’t SMTs (surface mount technology) machines performing one task repeatedly. When dealing with assembly lines and objects, it’s much easier to see where quality breaks down. Teachers are part of larger systems. They work in schools made up of populations of other teachers, curriculum coordinators and others, children, their parents, principals, and superintendents. They exist in communities whose citizens and school boards have their own ideas about how schools should be run. They are affected by politicians at all levels. There is a constant barrage of scrutiny and efforts to control and impact not only the content of the curriculum, but all aspects of education.
When more than 80 percent of third-graders in a school fail to pass the reading part of the state-mandated End-of-Grade test, who is responsible? Is it the fault of a single teacher? Or can fingers be pointed at all those who had a hand in the child’s development, from birth to third grade, including media, politicians and pundits?
A popular reading program is touted as a “whole-school reform strategy that features research-proven tools, with two decades of research and hundreds of testimonials and results from 47 states.” Sounds good. Tens of thousands of dollars of mostly Title 1 money are consumed and it’s only after the research-based program doesn’t work, program advocates move on to another unsuccessful school.
The term “research-based” is a trendy phrase intended to prove the merits of whatever a person is expounding and is overused in education. Students do need to be tested. If teachers spend their entire energy “teaching to the test” and the tests don’t measure what students should know and what teachers should be teaching, what is the point of more testing? Will these tests become tools of finger-pointers as many teachers fear? To not reward and to disparage educators who seek advanced degrees as well as the educational institutions they attend, and to offer discretionary compensation, only increases chances that our public schools will fail — as many may hope happens.