Be more humane.
The process of determining resolutions for the New Year is difficult at best and impossible at worst. After all, if I were to backfit my resolutions as an educator into Ohio’s existing social, economic, and educational system, then I’d have to go with something like the following...
Resolution One: I will believe that education is the great equalizer.
Resolution Two: I will pretend that policy-makers are listening chiefly to educators when developing education policy.
Resolution Three: I will attempt to find value in data from state assessments.
Alright, alright, that’s enough. I have tried all of these before, and it’s utter nonsense.
Problem One: There is, as yet, no great equalizer. School as a mechanism for upward mobility is a part of the same mythology as Horatio Alger, hard work, bootstraps, rags to riches bullshit whose very dangerous flip-side demonizes the poor for being poor, as if their poverty is simply a product of not having taken advantage of opportunities or worked hard enough.
Problem Two: Despite a depiction of the Superintendent’s many Workgroups, or the Ohio Department of Education, or some legislators touting their collaboration with teachers on new legislation, I have yet to read any legislation that provides opportunities and not punishment for students, teachers and schools. Representatives from the Fordham Institute are not teachers, and neither are analysts from the American Institutes for Research, nor are veterans of Teach for America (I’m looking at you Mr. Hardy). The entities from the state should also not defer to educators who are too frightened of their perceived “superiors” to stand up for what is right.
Problem Three: Regarding value in assessment data... the data is negligible and its value is laughable, especially when compared to the information that I gain on a daily basis in my classroom. As has been illustrated time and again, the information we gain from state assessments portrays a wonderful correlation with economic status. Nothing more.
It struck me this morning that our bizarre judgement of students, teachers, and schools by this method is a lot like the judgement kids levy on one another in middle and high school. They’re checking off who’s got the right clothes and shoes and phone, and if you don’t, then you lose. It’s the same bullshit valuation of character based on haves and have nots that existed when I was in school, and I guess kids will be kids except that when it comes to evaluating students, teachers, and schools, it’s not kids.
We’ve got a state capital riddled with education lobbyists and bureaucrats with a short sighted middle school mentality. Their assessment system is the hand they can’t see in front of their face. If these assessments measure economics, which we know they do, then aren't the State Superintendent and the Ohio Department of Education just seeing who’s got the right clothes and shoes and phones?
Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but as I sit here reflecting upon the end of 2017 and what I might do differently going forward, I can’t help but think that I’m falling prey to the relentless attacks on my profession by those who would seek to blame societal issues on my colleagues and I, rather than look in the mirror.
Teachers like myself, and the kids we teach are portrayed as failures within this system, and the bureaucrats would have us blame ourselves as if we haven’t worked hard enough and seized our opportunities. If we’d only do that under the informed guise of their valuable data, then achievement will trickle down like a better economic situation.
That’s why I’m not taking on an education based New Year’s Resolution. Lord knows I’ve done plenty of goal setting as it is through my Professional Development Plan, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, my Teacher Based Team, and otherwise.
I’m going with one Resolution this year and I’d like to suggest that educators and policy-makers consider this one as well when thinking about curriculum and lessons, assessments and evaluation. It is this...
Be more humane.