June 23, 2012

Am I an awful teacher or a great one?

The new trend in public education is to measure teacher accountability, based on standardized test results. Using this year's results, the state of Ohio must deem me an awful teacher. Wait a minute, Ohio must think I'm a great teacher. Hmm., which am I?

The list of problems with this ill-conceived system is far too long to place in one blog  post, so I'll discuss the one issue that would top the list that makes teacher accountability based on a test impossible.

I call this issue, uncontrollable factors.

For example, one of my students who failed the reading test -- solely my fault, according to the state of Ohio -- had many personal problems that severely minimized her interest in language arts and other subjects. She missed 25 days of school. She was suspended from school four times. She received 14 grades of D or F on her report card throughout the year. Her parents never responded to any of my innumerable calls during the second half of the year.

While my average student read 28 books during the school year, she read two.What could possibly motivate this child to put in her best effort on a two and a half hour reading test?

Conversely, I have many students who scored close to perfect on the reading test. They are avid readers, scholar-athletes, student government leaders and have marvelous parents who encourage a love of  learning both in and out of school. According to the state of Ohio, I am solely responsible for their fine efforts on the achievement test.

I have little, if any, control over the out-of-class lives of either the poor students or the excellent ones.

So, am I an awful teacher or am I a great one?


  1. Are you implying that there is no way to determine who's a good teacher? If there is a way, what do you think it is?

    1. No, there are ways to determine good teaching, but it should never be done by test results. I think teachers should be evaluated by an objective peer group. In a perfect world, I would be evaluated by two or three veteran teachers/administrators who don't know me.

      Evaluations should always be narrative, though; that is, they should never contain numbers. Pinning a 2/5 on a teacher in a vague category is no way to help a teacher improve. Thanks for ringing in on this.

  2. To me it sounds like you're a great teacher? Why? Because I get the feeling that you genuinely care. Of course you wouldn't have this great blog if you didn't. If we had more teachers like you, I don't think we would have many of the problems that exist in public education today. I however, am no expert on the subject since my children are still very young.

    Just my .02 cents.


    1. Matt, I do not believe that I am either great or awful. I just don't want to be judged by the results of a poorly written standardized test that my students have no interest in. Having said this, I truly appreciate your kind words. I hope you'll keep reading.