Attaching Teacher Pay/Tenure to Test Scores or The Next Survivor

I don’t usually post my personal opinions or political views because I would prefer to keep my blog to my professional expertise. However, I was cleaning out my hard drive and came across an oldie but goody and thought about the recent conversations and federal government initiatives that support attaching teacher pay or tenure to student test scores. I say to anyone who thinks that this is a good idea, don’t even give me the six weeks that this story suggests. Give me six days, one unit of study, then, give a test on the materials. Let’s attach your salary or part of it to that test.

Since the beginning of the school year, 16 weeks or almost one half of the school year, I have had to speak to guidance counselors, staff psychologists, social workers, parents, administrators and even made a call to the state child protective services about various students who might be suicidal, are on probation, going to court, hospitalized for mental illness, might be abused by a parent, abandoned by a parent, in rehab, need to be in rehab, caught stoned or drunk in my class or have violent behavior. Forget about having to track, monitor, or report on the number of students who just don’t come to class (cut) or the 17-year-old who can’t manage to be responsible enough to get to class on time. BTW- my take on why we have so much of this is because kids are stressed to the point of breaking partly because we test them too much. Tests are stressful, people! Don’t even get me started on giving homework over a vacation…

My school has about 2800 students. I see 175 students, grades 9 – 12, over a three-day cycle (we are on an 8 day block schedule and I mostly teach part-time classes, 3 classes per 8 day cycle). When the spring semester begins, 100 students will end their classes with me and I’ll get 100 new students. I teach five different preps in nine sections of classes. 13.4% of my current students are “identified” (translate that to SpEd). 21% of my students are African-American or Latino (in my district that’s a socioeconomic indicator and compare that to the 2-4% in the performance ensembles but that’s a subject for another post). My kids learn project management, system design, respect, responsibility, how to be thoughtful in communication, appreciation for cultures unknown to them, right brain thinking, 21st century skills and any number of edu-speak jargon you care to apply. Oh yeah, they also learn enough about the actual subject that on average, 33% of my seniors go to college to major in the subject I teach. This year, it’s up to 54% or 13  out of 24 students. (That’s right Mom & Dad, your kids can go to college for this stuff and make a good living but that’s subject for another post). One third of those kids never studied music before they came to my class and some of these kids would never have seen the inside of a college. Assess THAT and tell me my salary.

Test scores don’t make the student, they don’t make the teacher and they don’t make the school. Failing teachers and failing schools were failing long before the test score and if you need the test score for an indicator, time to change jobs. BTW- some of your test are poorly written and laid out (yes, the visual design makes a difference), ill-conceived, biased or just plain old crappy. If you want teachers to teach to the test, attach their pay to test scores. If you want to limit creative thinking, teaching and learning, attach teacher pay to test scores. You’ll also see record numbers of teachers leave the profession. Bank on it.

I love my job and I love where I teach. My district has a deep commitment to their students and to using technology in an appropriate, intelligent and progressive manner accessible to all students. I truly feel blessed in many ways and I know the students at my school are truly blessed to be there even if they don’t know it.

Teachers, nurses, social workers and any number of other service providers do what they do because they are compelled to do it. It is our life’s blood. It’s our calling. It’s like being an artist. We have no choice. A higher power wills us to it. And when it’s good, it’s the best thing in the world and we wouldn’t do anything else. We can’t. Unfortunately, people who aren’t like us know it and they use it, consciously or unconsciously. They dangle it in front of us like a food to a starving person. “Want some of this? Then do what I say”.  Take it or leave it. And we take it. We take unhealthy working environments, over crowed classrooms, pay that would make any executive with our amount of education and experience cringe, violent students in our classrooms, abuse by parents, disrespect from students and the list goes on and on. We take people telling us that we are responsible for the child’s test scores and not the student, parent, educational environment or past educational experience, or lack thereof. Teachers take all of this because we also get those little signs that tell remind why we do what we do. Like at 7 am when you walk down the hall and any number of students shout out to you, “Yo, Miss! Wad up?” and flash you a peace sign. Or when they just “really need to talk to you, Miss” and they pour out their heart about problems, really or imagined teenage angst. Or when the college kids come home for the long Thanksgiving weekend for the first time and just HAVE to come see you and tell you how college is or just say they miss you. Or when they turn 21 and look you up to buy them a beer because they want to share one with you and tell you how good they are doing.

I bet politicians and boards of education even started out that way, wanting to serve. Needing to serve. Maybe they just forgot.

“Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Einstein played the violin.

To all you teachers, nurses, social workers and all the other service provider arts, HAPPY HOLIDAYS and have a restful rejuvenating vacation! You’ve earned it no matter what the test scores say.

BTW- Here’s that story! I wish I knew where I got it from.

Have you heard about the next planned Survivor show?

Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped in an elementary school classroom for 6 weeks. Each businessperson will be provided with a copy of their school district’s curriculum, and a class of 28 students.
Each class will have five learning-disabled children, three with A.D.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three will be labeled as severe behavior problems.

Each businessperson must complete lesson plans at least 3 days in advance with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report
cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences.

They must cater to the demands of parents and administrators, always finding the best methods to teach each individual child.  They will make educational games, come up with new and innovative ways to teach each lesson, for up to six subjects per day, write tests, and individualized instruction, while meeting the standards of the state and school district.

They must also supervise recess and monitor the hallways. In addition, they will complete drills for fire, tornadoes, or shooting attacks. They must attend workshops, (100 hours), faculty meetings, union meetings, and curriculum development meetings. They must also tutor those students who are behind and strive to get their 2 non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the district, state and national standardized tests.

If they are sick or having a bad day they must not let it show. Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment at all times.

The business people will only have access to the golf course on the weekends, but on their new salary they will not be able to afford it anyway. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to 30 minutes.

On days when they do not have recess duty, the business people will be permitted to use the staff restroom as long as another survival candidate is supervising their class.

They will be provided with two 40-minute planning periods per week while their students are at specials. If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials at this time. The business people must continually advance their education on their own time and pay for this
advanced training themselves. This can be accomplished by moonlighting at a second job or marrying someone with money.

The winner will be allowed to return to his or her job.


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