The Executioner’s Song
By John Louis Meeks, Jr.
Education reformers wield a mighty ax when they demand the firing of more ‘bad’ teachers to improve our public schools.
They reason that past practices of evaluating and paying teachers is a sop to lazy teachers unions that would rather protect their precious jobs than teach our students.
They overhauled our teacher evaluation system under the guise of calibrating and correcting a flawed process that rewarded both poor and effective teachers.
Now that the CAST summative evaluations have been released, there is a chorus of criticism that this, too, was rigged for the benefit of teachers who should have been given the pink slip years ago. Well, we are reaping what we have sewn, if these claims are valid.
Firstly, the leadership of our state and others around the nation scrambled to change their laws to compete for Race to the Top grant money. This, in my opinion, was a waste of time because we revamped our evaluation and pay system and found ourselves with results that mirrored the old status quo. A large swath of teachers were declared to be ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective.’
The difference, however, is apparent and surprising. Student test scores and ‘value added’ factors contributed to the same conclusion as was reached by the maligned methods of the past.
Of course, the state legislature and the education apparatus may not be content with the rising student scores and the quality of work that our teachers do every day. I can already predict a tightening of the screws on the CAST system to create results that our leaders actually wanted to see. If their mission was to fire more teachers, they failed miserably, and they will find a way to toss a few more pink slips around.
The root problem is judging educators on a handful of days in which students bubble in a few answers or click a mouse for an online test. To make this the ultimate decider in retaining or terminating workers is wrong in any profession, let alone education. Yet, we call ourselves progressive in our attempt to subvert contract law, due process and worker’s rights by tying performance to the overall judgment of the men and women who serve our children.
Even the most guilty of death row inmates is afforded an appeals process. But, in our drive to put more people in the unemployment line, we prefer to railroad the guilty and the innocent alike. Justice is best tempered with mercy, and our system currently lacks the mercy that we were taught in our most early recollections of Sunday school.