There is nothing more shameful than blaming educators for the economic crisis facing schools today.
It is no secret that New York students aren’t performing well on the national average. And, frankly, it’s no wonder. State cuts in education have led to building consolidations, larger classrooms, and in some cases the elimination of all extracurricular activities including field trips.
But despite the economic hardships facing schools today, the new trend in “education reform” is to hold teachers solely accountable for poor test scores.
Today, politicians are calling for merit-based wages for teachers. This bold measure assumes that standardized testing is a fair assessment of how teachers are performing in the classroom.
Why? Because it can’t possibly be the state of New York’s fault for hanging schools out to dry during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Nope, it must be the teachers’ fault that students are struggling.
And it can’t possibly be that the Department of Education recently overhauled the state Learning Standards, completely altering standardized testing. Nope, it must be the teachers’ fault that students aren’t adjusting overnight to a new test format.
Most schools have a breakfast program. That means enough parents are sending their kids to school without breakfast to necessitate an extra meal in the budget. Is malnourishment in the home the teacher’s fault?
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Too many teachers have to purchase school supplies for their students such as notebooks and pencils. Sure, parents are supposed to provide these. But what if they don’t? Are these students supposed to sit with their heads down all day? Of course not, so now it’s the teachers’ problem that kids can’t afford school supplies.
And even the best teachers aren’t going to follow their students home at night to make sure they all do their homework, eat a good dinner and go to bed at a reasonable hour. And yet we want to evaluate our teachers on how well these students perform on standardized tests?
Education reform should start with the syllabus, not the teachers. What are children learning? Is it still relevant? How do children take in information? How are teachers presenting information?
In a world of smart phones, iPads and Kindles, it baffles me that we expect teachers to educate children using text books and calculators.
Bottom line, I have no problem with merit based wages. But to measure teachers solely on how the students perform on national exams is ridiculous and unfair.
Estabrook's column appears Mondays and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org