Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Los Angeles Times feeds the mob

I’ll be perfectly honest, if you tossed an Algebra test to me right now, I’d probably fail it.  In fact, I’m almost positive I’d fail it.  When I would get to the point of slopes and graphing, I would be completely and totally screwed.  Y = MX + B is the formula to figure out a slope, that’s the extent of my graphing knowledge.  In fact, my knowledge of math is so bad that it took my two tries to pass the Math portion of that easiest of tests, the CBEST.
If you think I blame my Math teachers, then you’d be wrong.
If you think doing poorly in Math makes me a bad Social Studies teacher, then you’d be an idiot. 
If you think that standardized testing is a valid determination of what makes a good teacher, you’d also be incorrect.  Yet the Los Angeles Times has taken it upon itself to promote the idea that a test that assesses bad information and that kids don’t care about somehow shows a clear indication of a bad teacher.  On top of that, the Los Angeles Times decided that the best thing to do in this situation is feed this faulty information to a public that refuses to take responsibility for bringing up its own children.  I’ve spoken before that in its current make-up, society has shown little or no real concern for the welfare of the kids, while being very supportive of pointing fingers at everyone else.  What the L.A. Times has done here is basically work up a frenzy at blaming teachers, again, for the problems with educating children.  It’s actually shocking to watch the reaction in the blogosphere.  “Shame them into being better”, “show them some humility”, “look, you can’t blame outside variables anymore”, all comments of people that aren’t looking for  solutions, they are looking for blame. 
Throw in the fact that all the supports seem to love the idea of the “value-added analysis”, including my own school board member, Friends of Dave (blogroll).  I don’t know what is more disturbing; the reliance on a “science” (value-added) that is so prone to errors that even the writers admitted that it shouldn’t be a major factor in determining teacher retention, or the disgusting way that the authors then used that analysis to become “professionals” at decoding the problems within the realm of education.  What’s funny is that I was just reading about economists saying that “value-added” is a horrid measure of “mastery” of any skill when it comes to the idea of developing human capital.  The variables, even classroom to classroom, are so different (even taking out the teacher) that the idea of actually measuring knowledge in a value-added format is ripe for errors.  And while knowing all of this, and fully admitting that the information had major faults, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES STILL PRINTED THE ARTICLE! 
I’m all for accountability and I’ve been very adamant about the removal of bad teachers from the classroom.  But the idea that public educators will somehow improve their practices by enacting them to public humiliation, and using bad information at that, is sick.  The L.A. Times has deemed themselves judge and jury in an area that have no expertise in, while potentially destroying the lifestyle of good professional educators.  Did you notice that none of the educators had been presented the information by the administration?  Did you notice that they were willing to make changes?  I’m not blaming the administration, but don’t you think that the boss should share the results with the employee well before some idiocy released for public consumption?  What does this tell new teacher? 
Hi, welcome to the profession!  Now, your future is based on a test that measures little and means nothing to the students.  Make sure you make good gains on your scores or the newspaper is going to place your name on a blacklist and allow the public make you the scapegoat of all of society’s problems.  Have a nice day!”
I’d like to thank all those teachers that inspired me in spite of the idiotic tests.  I could tell what a good teacher was because when I entered the teacher credential program, I went right back to my old high school and found that, yep, those that inspired me as a student, inspired me as a teacher, even those that taught Math.  And guess what, it had nothing to due with standardized test.
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