It’s usually good to have a negative example along with a positive when teaching. “Here’s how to… here’s how not to…” It’s good. It gives a bigger picture, broad outlines within which to work, an opportunity to talk about learning from mistakes.
So what can we learn from this article about New York?
The only lesson I can come up with is this:
People — especially policy makers — who haven’t taught, have zero business telling teachers, administrators, and parents how they, their schools, their children will be evaluated.
At least in New York.
That was really hard for me to write.
I taught in New York City during what was clearly the golden age. The Regents Tests were strong and
arguably reasonably pretty darn accurate (or at least closer to accurate than any other tests I’d seen in various states) at assessing whether a student was actually ready to graduate from high school. The ridiculousness of the 3rd grade tests hadn’t really hit yet, and rugs and rocking chairs weren’t even a whiff of stink on the horizon.
It is as though when I left in June 2003 the entire state lost its collective mind when it came to administering the schools.
I—modestly—choose not to see the relationship as causative.
The above linked post, and this recording (watch the debate by choosing 3-31-15 Session 2), go a long way towards elaborating on the issue, but suffice to say, here, that we must get over our elitist-bugaboos and accept that people who have been doing something—attentively, mindfully, reflectively—for 10 years or 10,000 hours (thank you Mr. Gladwell) probably know a little something about what it is that they’re doing. Nothing short of our future—by way of our children—is at stake in accepting that fact.
I routinely see posts from family members and friends in NYC and Brooklyn, detailing the unbelievable amount of Stupid they are up against. These are smart people who live in (what used to be) perhaps the best public school zone in the City. Parents aren’t pitted against lousy teachers or ineffective administrators. No. They are all—all—united… against the Kafkaesque nightmare that (once was the NYC Bored of Ed but now) is the uniquely uninformed (and evidently uninterested) State Legislature.
But this is all preamble. Read the piece in the Washington Post. (Just try to do it when you’ll be able to scream and throw things without upsetting the children — or the neighbors).