How Colorado just made it easy to keep bad teachers

Most readers know that I am a public school teacher who is not a member of any union. I do very much see the problems that unions bring to education. I also, however see some sense of pragmatism that requires the presence of certain safety catches to prevent politics from intruding into the classroom.

So, you are a teacher in Colorado, and your employment status has now been rigidly tied to your students’ abilities to show progress on a particular test over two consecutive years (two years of no progress signals a loss of tenure). Your ability to support a family is now a bit more tenuous. This is a lot to be left to chance

Even the best teachers working with a class of the best students are unlikely to show progress over consecutive years. As a matter of fact, teachers in this predicament are unlikely to show much progress (they tend to show high grades).

If you teach poor students, you will teach directly to the test, and move anything that is not test related out. Anything intangible is out. If you teach science, for example, lab experiments should be eliminated immediately to increase test preparation time. No time can be wasted on those other activities.

If you teach in a school where your students don’t show up very often, or don’t get meals on a regular basis, or miss school days as they bounce between parents …. that all counts against you as a teacher, because all of those things are obviously things that you should be able to work around. Best of luck to you.

If you are a good teacher, this puts you in an ethical bind: do you risk your ability to support your family? Of course, if you are a bad teacher, the answer is amazingly simple.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Colorado (no doubt their test scores will go up and someone will use this as “proof” that education in Colorado is so much better). Test scores are the best way to measure anything … this is why we use test scores to decide who governs in the White House, and who runs our multi-billion dollar companies. I have no doubt that when Mr. Obama was selecting his latest supreme court nominee, he either was checking LSAT or ACT scores …. or more likely gave them a test of his own. Standardized tests are that important.

But if I was a young kid coming out of Colorado State or the University of Colorado, there is no way I am sending out resumes to local districts. Teaching in Colorado just became too much of an ethical sticking point that should be left to people who can more easily teach to a test while leaving real education at the door.


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