Friday, May 8, 2015


I have one simple question. How does an educational administrator know which teachers is a good teacher and which one is a bad teacher? Once pressured to answer that question, it becomes obvious is a simple question; it is the answer that is difficult. The first and most obvious problem is to define what you mean by the expression ‘good teacher’ with the provision that the definition will change with the age of the student. In addition, the definition has to be expanded from K-12 to include the graduate school, meaning teaching Ph.D. students. Remember that the abbreviation refers to “doctor of philosophy” using the term meaning “love of wisdom” in addition it is the highest degree awarded as and as such implies wisdom and not just unprocessed knowledge. Is there one answer that fits all situations? I think there is. A program referred to as Common Core has received much less than reasoned criticism. It is interesting to learn that many if not most critics are now active teachers including some of what I consider the best teacher in the nation, which represents a shift from first the radical political operatives whose interest in objecting to Common Core was in condemning anything connected with President Obama for anything and everything. This focus soon switched to the Republican Party with an eye on cutting taxes, which resulted in the impoverishment of some public schools while enriching public schools in “good” neighborhoods. Including the GOP resulted in an extensive effort by conservatives to convince people Common Core was an effort by the “big suppressive federal government” to take over local schools from neighborhood school boards. Th GOP attracted local activists, church groups, and racial bigots. Although the target of the attacks is to cut taxes, this effort resulted in such asinine laws as outlawing Sharia Law, establishing state religions, funding of charter schools, and other things that help private business groups. Recently, the focus of dissent aimed at Common Core switched to the idea that the testing is oppressive and hurting children. The detractors do this with rhetoric and selection of words like ‘oppressive high stress’ testing, ‘harmful’ testing, producing ‘useless’ test results, and worst of all ‘teaching tests’. Some of the good teachers in our nation joined in this dissent because they saw this as being harmful to students, etc. However, bad teachers saw testing as a threat; they recognize educational administrators could look at student test results and answer the question; “Who are the good teachers and who are the bad teachers?” This approach both asks and answers the main question; the question asked by administrators, who is and who is not a good teacher, is answered by finding out which children learned the most. All of a sudden, the testing removes the one big objection to teacher evaluation; a teacher can be popular but be a bad teacher. The irony is that there has been there is often an inverse relationship between these two factors. Stop and think about it and these arguments give us both the strength and weakness of Common Core. By examining why each group is critical, we find revealing. Not having the test result immediately available to improve their teaching concerns good teachers, which is one of the few objections to Common Core to which I agree. Good teachers know they are good teachers and see testing as a way to become even better. Test results direct teaching to individual student’s needs and interests; however, without a test being results immediately available they serve no purpose. The mindset of good teachers is not that of an educational administrator and like everyone else they object to being told what they already know or allow their insecurity to dominate inherent self-deprecating suspicions about not doing a good job—a sure sign a good teacher. For poor teachers know they are poor teachers, just as good teachers know they are good teachers. Poor teachers fear testing will reveal their inadequacies; therefore, they find ways to cheat as we recently found out in Georgia. Administrators should fire them, so they depend on unions to defend them; unfortunately, union leaders often do, in fact, defend bad teachers; thus, destroying the reputation of unions. In addition, union leaders defense of bad teachers reduces the quality of public schools especially in neighborhoods where teachers are hard to find because of low wages and working condition. This emphasis creates and perpetuates a vicious cycle Common Core aims at breaking. The objection by teachers has gained force at the expense of the program as a major benefit to education, which is counter to the objective of destroying the program. Unfortunately, this means good teachers are working to damage what they cherish the most. The non-teaching forces object to Common Core efforts to improve educational standards seem persistent and would fail without the creditability of good teacher support. Not only in a small substandard neighborhood but also in wide swaths of the country, all as being substandard, for example, in the anti-science evangelical south recognize. In fact, the impact of local influence on what students learn is often so blatant it is a standing joke, especially in the old Plantation South. My conclusion is that Common Core has its most value in evaluating teachers, which is why most people object to the program. I have no inside information but suspect that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and support staff had the evaluation of teachers in mind. Contrary to what detractors claim, these people are highly educated individuals who have worked very hard doing their jobs. Many of them have extensive experience in education administration. They know the best way to find out which teachers are good and which are not is through student testing despite all the disparaging adjectives. They know to say they were testing children to evaluate teachers would kill the program. Still, if you are one of those who object to Common Core, ask yourself the question, how do you think we should evaluate teacher? I have been asking myself that question for many years and keep coming up with the same answer as Secretary Arne Duncan; test the children. By the way, the high stakes test is ‘high stakes’ but only for bad teachers. URL: Comments Invited and not moderated

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