Friday, February 1, 2019

Measuring Success: A Study in Contrasts

Two items tossed my feed this week that underline contrasting ideas about what constitutes success in  education.

First, let's go to the Jackson-Madison County school system of Tennessee. At JMCSS folks are pretty excited because they've made such strides with the addition of a unified curriculum. They know this worked because they have all sorts of growth data, much of it exceeding expectations.

Not on the same page.
Now, I don't want to gloss over the good parts here. Having some sort of planned curriculum is probably a good step (no district has "no curriculum," even if that curriculum is "whatever the teacher decides to do today"), and I'm sure that it probably helped. But we can't really tell, because all JCMSS has to say for itself is "We made test scores go up." And as every teacher knows, you can raise test scores without really teaching anything worthwhile except how to do better on standardized tests.

Nor is the "how they did it" part of the article very encouraging. Talking to Superintendent Jared Myracle (I swear I am not making that up):

“It’s a game changer,” he said. “Getting everyone on the same page, having everyone use the same approach is a huge thing.”

With a new, uniform curriculum, there is consistency across the district. He said that’s important because students at one school shouldn’t be learning differently than students at other schools, especially because families move across the district.

Sigh. So they found a super-duper one-size-fits-all program and jammed the entire teaching staff into that one size. All students learn the same thing at the same time in the same way, and that's how we raise test scores. This is how public schools help promote charter school and home schooling-- by insisting there's just one way to teach and learn and measure what has happened.

But meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, there is this:

In many people's lives there is at least one teacher who inspired them, and helped them become who they are today. In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into who we ultimately become. These inspirational people are not often recognized for the life changing role they have played. These are the teachers who define us, teachers who widen our horizons and encourage us to explore. These teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone.

That's from the website for the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards. It's time again for nominations to this prestigious award that recognizes teachers who-- well, you just read the paragraph. I've poked through the whole site, and there doesn't seem to be anything about "teachers who faithfully got one the same page as everyone else in their building" or "teachers who implemented one-size-fits-all programs with fidelity" or even "teachers who helped students get higher scores on the Big Standardized Test."

But here's what one nominator wrote about the teacher she put up for the award:

At the age of 15 the word "different" was something I never wanted to be. Despite detecting my "differences" at a very young age, I decided to try to deny that part of myself existed in order to fit in... [Coach Brown] helped me recognize my differences not as flaws, but rather my most precious and unique pieces that make me special.

So you tell me. Would you rather have your child in the classroom of that guy, or of the guy who carefully stayed on the same page of a one-size-fits-all program? If you teach, how would you like to be remembered by your students? As someone who widened horizons and inspired students, or as someone who helped raise standardized test scores?

The information about how to nominate someone for the Kennedy/Sondheim award is on the website.

1 comment:

  1. In my district it is one size fits all curriculum. It has been like this way BEFORE Common Core and PARCC. Howard County, MD is consistently rated by US News and World Reports as one of the best places to live and to receive a world class education. It is a cookie cutter, teach to the test nightmare. I can't believe the well educated parents in this area haven't caught onto the "smoke and mirrors" act. I guess as long the parents believe, and little Suzie is bringing home all A's, then everything is just dandy (competition among parents related to their children is rampant). It drives our real estate market and our tax base. I believe it is you who has stated..".You can have high test scores OR you can have good education, but you can't have both." Keep exposing the lies and maybe people will start to listen.