Bravo to Brenda Payne for "putting it on the line" for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler ("A Lesson for Mr. Gansler," May 21). Neither Mr. Gansler nor the other politicians who think they know how to educate our children have any idea how to "lift up our kids." Ms. Payne is quite right when she asks, "What on earth does that really mean?"
Here's a thought. Veteran teachers remember well how they used to "lift up kids" through the joy of learning. But the joy of learning (and teaching) was lost when politicians and corporate executives insisted on emphasizing testing as the be-all and end-all of education. Further, they insist, "be-back" math or reading is the way to improve test scores. It's a sure way to prevent students from developing a love of learning.
One of the great joys of teaching used to be finding creative ways to re-engage students with the same material so that you could be certain every student understood the lesson content. Teaching to the test doesn't leave time to make sure every student "gets it." In today's schools, it's a "one shot deal." Many students are left behind because teachers must move on at all costs to be sure all the required material on the test is covered. Heaven help students with learning disabilities.
A skilled teacher in every classroom? You bet. But is a teacher less skilled when assigned a group of students not as adept at learning as last year's students? On it's face, tying teacher evaluation to student achievement fails to consider that the achievement level of a teacher's students can vary from one year to the next. Does Mr. Gansler's "skill over seniority in every classroom" mean that a veteran teacher with a lower achieving class in a given year should be dismissed as less skillful? Could it be that the skill of the veteran teacher helped those students come closer to their maximum potential (which may be at a lower achievement level than last year's students)?
Ms. Payne states that teachers may be leaving the profession because they were disrespected or assaulted by parents. Let's add administrators (school based and higher up) who rule top down or by intimidation and do not support teachers when assaulted by parents.
Some of these administrators have little classroom experience. How qualified are they to evaluate teachers?
One is led to ask, "Why would anyone want to become a teacher?"
Richard A. Disharoon
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