Children aren’t widgets, teachers aren’t the enemy
The News recently ran two perplexing editorials. The first expressed concern that new Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa will set back reform following the loss of Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Robert Bennett.
The second celebrated U.S. Senate approval of John B. King Jr. as secretary of education. All three desired improvement, but they suffered from the same myopia as The News – children aren’t widgets and teachers aren’t the enemy.
Teaching is complex; there are socioeconomic factors outside the classroom that impact learning. Children are individuals; they differ in personality and ways of learning. To assume that achievement can be simply summarized by a quantitative test score is wishful thinking and narrows the curriculum to what is tested.
This is where Tisch and company failed. They erroneously assumed that test scores reflected the quality of teacher performance, something disputed by testing experts. And why were teachers being so scrutinized? It appears that Tisch, Bennett, King and The News think children need protecting from teachers who are only concerned about their own interests.
Wrong. Tisch and company alienated their greatest asset, teachers. Most who become teachers do so because they care about children and their learning. They are the experts on children and learning, not policy makers. Stripping teachers of their autonomy and control, yet holding them accountable for test scores, destroyed teacher morale and turned future teachers off to what was once a rewarding calling.
True qualitative reform might now happen with Tisch and Bennett gone. Unfortunately, we have another nine months of King.
Michael E. Parks, Ed.D.