Thursday, January 06, 2011

Test scores and widgets.

People versus products.

Control versus random contributing factors.

I am all for promoting accountability in schools for teachers as well as adminstrators. I truly believe until we ensure a quality effective teacher is in front of each and every classroom, American tax dollars spent on education are being wasted.

However, the sweeping changes being implemented are unrealistic, even outrageous.

Basing teacher pay on test scores?

That is like:

  • basing the pay of the contractor who builds a Burger King on the profit made in the restaurant.

  • basing the doctor's fee on at what age a patient dies.

  • basing a senator's pay on the IQ of people in his district.

  • basing a CEO's bonus on how many people in his corporation get into car accidents each year.

While we might be able to find some correlations between the two in each of the above examples, many other extraneous facts influence the final outcome.

If the contractor builds a shoddy, unsafe restaurant, perhaps fewer patrons will come, no doubt. But assume he does an outstanding job, but due to factors beyond his control, like bad service from employees in the restaurant or substandard food being served, the restaurant fails. Would we consider it fair to dock the contractor's pay?

If a doctor's patients rarely live beyond the age of 25, but all suffer from debilitating childhood illnesses, would we consider not compensating her efforts to treat them?

If a senator happens to represent a particularly 'low' intelligence clientele, should their pay not be comparable to other senators?

If the CEO of said corporation has many employees who travel long distances to work each day, therefore increasing the odds of them getting into accidents, should she automatically be paid less?

All those situations are absurd. Yet.... basing teacher pay on student test scores is really no less ridiculous.

Students are not widgets, one size fits all, something I can control. They come to me with a variety of skill sets, God given abilities, and desires to learn. Some things I can overcome, others, I have little/no control over.

Take Sally. Sally is a wonderful young lady. But unfortunately, Sally misses at least 1 day of school each week. Over the course of the school year, she's missed 36+ days, which equates to over 7 weeks of instruction time lost. Sally won't be proficient on next fall's state assessment, because this trend, multiplied times the 9 years of school she has attended kindergarten through 8 grade, will mean she has 63 weeks of school, over 2 years of instruction.

Or....What about Fred??Fred is an obnoxious little guy. Fred knows he can do and say what he wants because his mom will side with him, dad is in prison, and there really are no consequences that can be enforced to 'punish' him. I can try to work with Fred, I can try to 'connect' with Fred, but he knows that his mom's welfare check, food stamps, and other 'assistance' checks for her and the 6 children living with her add up to way more than my paycheck, so he figures education didn't get me very far, why should HE bother to get one. His grand plan is to make it until he turns 16 so he can drop out.

We could consider Otis. Otis is about the nicest kid I have ever met, polite, charming, but just not all that bright. His IQ, on a GOOD day, might hit 75. He tries his hardest to please me and his other teachers, really he does. But Otis is never going to understand abstract concepts like algebra, or physics. Heck, he does good to remember the combination to his locker.

You don't like Sally or Fred or Otis?? How about Martha?? Martha is about 10 points higher on the IQ scale than Otis, but poor Martha is being sexually molested every night by her mother's livein boyfriend of the month. She's afraid to tell anyone because he said he would kill her dog is she told. She is also afraid he might be thinking about doing it to her little sister next, so she is afraid to fall asleep at night for fear she won't be awake to protect her little sister should he come into the room.

We could talk about a million other kids... all with problems I can't fix, problems that overwhelm their ability to be successful at school, beyond the scope of what most normal people can even comprehend.

It isn't that I don't want to teach them. It isn't that I am not willing to bend over backwards to do whatever is humanly possible to teach them within that 8:19 - 3:08 window. It just simply isn't in the cards for those kids.

If you want 100% perfection, give me a product that comes to me 100% ready to be produced. Let me have complete control over the outcome. Let there be no other intervening variables. Then... hold me accountable 100% for the outcome.

But we aren't talking about that situation here, now are we?

These are people, children.... imperfect, yet perfect.. each unique and special, with their own talents, gifts and potential for contributions to society... most of which are UNMEASURABLE on a bubble test.

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