Apparently, in a bullshit tactic to “motivate” teachers to do better jobs, even as their pay and benefits and funding is being slashed, some genius in New York came up with the Teacher Data Report. This is supposed to “show” how well a teacher is teaching, based on how well his or her students do in state testing. Because test scores TOTALLY show a teachers value. You know how test scores are lower for poor kids? Well, a teacher who dedicated his or her life to helping the least economically advantaged students, a teacher who would later be the subject of a Lifetime Original Movie, would wind up looking like they sucked … because they could wave a magic teacher wand and totally remove all the effects of poverty. Kids not get enough food, and living with grandma because Mom’s job as a cashier doesn’t pay the bills and Dad was killed serving in Iraq? Magic teacher can erase those problems and turn that frown upside down!
Do asshats really think teachers can help every single student, no matter the economic disadvantages, get great test scores? Seriously? Maybe if they got Michelle Rhee’s acolytes to help them fill in the correct answer bubbles.
So do these assignation of rank favor the teachers who have privileged schools? Not necessarily. There are lots of ways teacher can get shit on there too.
Look, for example, at what happened to Carolyn Abbott, a great math teacher at a fancy middle school filled with kids who are “gifted and talented”. Her seventh graders tested really, really well on the state math exam. However, when they took the eighth grade math exam, they had already knew what high school they were going too, so they had less incentive to do their absolute best … and the filthy little bastards dropped all the way down to the 89th percentile! Sure, you can point out that it is still a damn good score, but that totally misses the point — it wasn’t as good as they had done the year before! Whose fault was that? Only their math teacher, of course!
Thus, Carolyn Abbott, who had lead them to 98th percentile greatness was ranked as the very worst math teacher in New York because she had, all by herself and with nary an outside influence, dragged them down to the 89th percentile a year later. Because good teachers can control EVERYTHING and if their students do ANYTHING less than stellar then it is all the teachers fault!
It must be true! There are test scores to prove it!
And turtles are flying out of my ass!
So how did we get to this point? When did teaching to the test become the darling of the far-right anti-teachers anti-union Rhee-loving wackadoodles? More importantly, WHY?
Well, something has to mask the fact that poverty is the reason our students are struggling! What? You expect the right-wing to admit that poverty effects grades, and that poverty is more pervasive now that it has been in more than 50 years? You want them to deal with the fact that 1/5 of school-age children are in poverty? Worse, you want the far right to acknowledge that many children are not “officially” in poverty, but still live in households that are barely able to stay above that line, which means that 1/3 of all Americans are either already in poverty or struggling to make ends meet? That would imply poverty is structural, not simply the result of individual actions or ‘laziness’! My God, that would require America to have a social safety net! People might demand the repeal of the Bush Tax Cuts, which would not just reduce the deficit, but also pay for silly things like families not going hungry!
The far right not going to idly stand by and let the American public see the connection between poor test grades and rampant poverty!
Not while there are plenty of handy teachers to take the blame instead.