7:30 AM EDT, September 28, 2011
Unlike the teacher quoted in your article "Obama to ease school standard" (Sept. 23), I did not greet this announcement with the joyful anticipation as I began my 19th year in a Baltimore City classroom in September. Quite the opposite.
What Liz Bowie's article neglected to mention was that the state's receiving a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act is conditioned on creating a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. Here in Maryland, and embedded in the most recent Baltimore City teacher contract, we have already made that pact with the devil.
I have put my heart into my job, but if the truth be known, I have failed with young people more than I have succeeded. Teaching is a job of such profound and immense complication that if one isn't in the classroom it's hard to understand what goes into it. My Sunday lesson plans, written with love and hope, may touch the imaginations of half my class on Monday if I'm fortunate. That night, I'm back at my lesson book, tweaking and reconfiguring, because there's tomorrow.
I'm willing to take responsibility, but I am not the only factor in this equation. I have seen how poverty has distracted, saddened and tortured my students. There is not a level playing field in any American classroom. Poor students can and do succeed, but the obstacles facing them are huge. Education alone simply does not have the means to make a success story of every Baltimore student.
I shake my head in wonder at how President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan could ever believe in such an unsophisticated fairy tale.
Now, all the efforts I put forth will no longer be judged by a human being who is familiar with my weaknesses and strengths. It is the test that will characterize my efforts. It is the test that will determine my future. It is to the test that I must devote all my attention. I have nothing but contempt for those who played a role in this debasement of my cherished profession.
Peter French, Baltimore
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