Friday, August 20, 2010

A brief break from the curriculum discussions...

I've been reading in a number of news publications and web sites about how teaches are being asked to do more and to be evaluated primarily using students' test scores.  While some east coast unions are fighting back they are losing the battle.  Mr. Obama is still pushing his contest to the top and rewarding those schools that achieve more then others regardless of the social setting around the school.  I won't bore you with my rants about this.  

Then I read that the Seattle schools are doing the same thing wanting to evaluate the teachers according to their students' scores.  As I delve deeper into the background of this conflict I find it seems to be mostly on the elementary and middle schools looking at reading and mathematical test scores.  One problem with this concept of testing to evaluate the teacher is how do you do it for the high school music teacher, the business teacher, the art teacher (if they still have one) and others like them.  How do you design a test to measure such learning?  

I hold an elementary principals certificate although I have never used it.  But because I use to be in many different schools I have always have read educational management and leadership tomes.  A lot of top down stuff and goal setting.  I suspect some of it worked someplace.  I never found much that supported that movie about a principal, Lean On Me but I suspect it could work for some dynamic type of person.

Still....I am concerned about teachers being asked to do more and in some cases for less money.  Tutor after school children, start Saturday make up classes, visit homes to let parents know more about their children.  I suspect you'll see some of this on evening television news--something positive once again about teachers helping students.

BUT....and this is a big button for my anger, what are school districts going to do in return to this added burden on the teacher.  Are we going to fix up some of these old schools?  Are we going to provide more learning materials for the students?  Will there be up to date computers for the children to use?  Even more important will the district get parents to form committees to learn about the schools and to make recommendations that they want for their children?  Can we mandate that children have to come to school to learn?  How do you rate a teacher when the student just doesn't come to class.  

I have been in many of the Bellevue schools over the years.  I was there when the fledgling Bellevue Community College moved out of the Newport High School (evenings only) into their own buildings.  The Bellevue schools are impressive.  Just walking up the path to the front door makes you want to learn.  Their grounds are landscaped and easy to look at.  Most of the classrooms have Smart Boards.  And then people wonder why Bellevue is always listed in the top one hundred high schools in the nation--all of them.

Yes, it takes money to have good schools but it also takes an attitude of cooperation between administrators, principals, teachers and PARENTS!  That is what Bellevue has and does.  

So before your school district starts evaluating teachers, you need to start evaluating the school district and the buildings.  There are a number of schools I'd rather not teach in--the kids are fine but the building is tired.  You have to keep up to be good.

My teachers are heading home from their summertime college classes.  They are keeping up.  Thank you all--you've been wonderful as usual.  And thank you for teaching our kids.  Have you thanked a teacher recently?

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