Dear President Obama,
I am a retired teacher and personally have nothing to gain or to lose with any new evaluation system or with added value data. But, I do have a lot to gain or lose based on the future education of today's youth. It might be a little hokey to say that children are our future, but hokey or not, it is true. I, and others, will be dependant on the young to keep this country running. We'll need the doctors, nurses, and engineers. We will also need the cooks, the toilet cleaners and the ditch diggers. And, Mr. President, these last occupation are equally important to my future. Not everyone wants to go to college or has the ability to succeed in college. There are people that will want and enjoy these jobs that do not require an advanced degree. Instead of pushing everyone towards college, you should start respecting all occupations and working to insure everyone, no matter what field they work in, get paid a decent wage and are afforded respect for what they do.
Rating teachers on exam scores will do nothing to create responsible, educated citizens able and willing to carry on in the spirit in which this country has been created. A student once told me if he didn't do well in my class, I could get fired. This is not a message to send to the young.
Teachers, like everyone else, have families to take care of and keeping their jobs and their income is a priority. Judging teachers by their student's test scores will force teachers to stop helping anyone not on their rosters. When I taught, I picked up "orphans", the kids who I found floundering and in need of extra help. New evaluation systems would force me, and the countless others like me, to ignore these kids as helping them will help a colleagues statistics and make me look bad. And, I can't tell you how many times I have added students to my rosters, kids who were failing with other teachers, kids I hoped to help. While I helped some, I didn't help them all. With your plan, I would never want to take in the kids no one else wants. In addition, the school I worked in, particularly the math department has a policy of dropping students into low level classes if they are not passing, or barely passing in the beginning of the semester. These kids never have a chance to improve or do better. Several teachers try to hold on to these students and risk failure because the rewards of learning are worth the risk. I've also seen teachers hold on to students who should be moved into an honors class because the teacher wanted the good grades on his roster. Again, emphasis on statistics does not help the child.
In addition to all of this you have to remember that teachers teach things that can't be measured by exams. They build confidence and teach kids to believe in their abilities to do whatever they want. They offer shoulders to cry on. I've seen teachers hand over lunch money, trip money and even rent money. They've gone to funerals and to weddings. They play a major role in the development of the child, in things that can't be measured with a pencil and paper.
Mr President, I know not all teachers do the things I have written in this letter, but most do. No one wants poor teachers removed more than teachers themselves, but no method being discussed will do this.
I hope you will take all these things into consideration while shaping your education policy.
A former HS Math teacher and a current college adjunct lecturer