I read this recent post via the Guardian website with anticipation this week:
Secret Teacher: how I became trapped in the cheating game
I have been very vocal in my past about ‘league tables’ and how they influence schools and the community. The perception of a school is often gained from where a school is placed in a table. I am always questioning this type of data when I see it, asking myself this question: ‘Is this an accurate summary of a school?
I was drawn to this particular article as I had an inkling it would support all that I have already thought and said about such devices that ‘judge’ student achievement in schools. I have personally seen these kinds of actions stated within the article happen in schools I have worked in. I normally stay clear of posting anything political or confrontational on my personal Facebook page as I can’t be bothered to interact with people that go out of their way to negatively interact with my other friends via their comments or replies. However, the article resonated with me to such an extent, I decided to risk the post on FB as well as my usual avenues via my Twitter accounts.
Everyone has an opinion on schools:
- What they were like for them as kids (“I hated/loved school…”)
- how hard (or not) teachers work nowadays (“It must be really hard having 13 weeks holiday a year…”)
- the under-investment in Education and classroom resources
- Does class size really matter? etc.
I was very heartened by some of the FB comments I received back, mainly because most people were wise to the possibility of informative data that should be fair and robust, could actually be flawed. Here are most of those comments:
CD: “You mean to tell me that Teachers are am in charge of progress forward and if they want to, they can accelerate their progress up the ladder.. No.. Hard to believe that really”
Me: Yep, (sh)it happens! Integrity is the way forward! Integrity stops the rot!
CM: Often the by-product of setting rigid goals and holding people to them is that you get entirely unwanted consequences as hitting the target becomes the main driver. Sigh. Think the whole system needs an overhaul….
Me: Absolutely CM. It’s been my main bugbear in all the 13+ years of being a teacher… It’s not about driving standards up. It’s doesn’t measure how accountable an individual teacher is. It doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the school. It simply measures how many hoops that teacher or those students had to jump through to get through… A sad but true reality really… 😦
JK: The thing that I notice now is how spoon fed students are. If we failed we remembered and tried harder, now I hear students all the time saying “I don’t understand, sir didn’t tell me” when you dig further it’s because the teacher didn’t actually give them the answer and has explained what they have to do. There are a lot of young people out there that are not going to be able to work things out for themselves.
Me: …and that’s why the kids blame us as teachers when they fail JK… They are so used to us ‘telling them what to do’, they have no skills to work it out for themselves! In NZ we have Key Competencies which are supposed to take place in every lesson. ‘Managing Self’ is one of those and this forms the main part of my lesson. I have signs on my wall to encourage these skills: ‘Ask 3 b4 me’, ‘Work smart and not hard’ and ‘The best way to get someone to learn is to NEVER tell them the answer.’ It’s all about encouragement and not being afraid to make mistakes. Unfortunately these targets only encourage spoon-feeding.
The object of targets is to get a better percentage than before. When you get to 100%, there is only one direction we can go from there… Downwards! Then that downward direction gets interpreted as ‘failure’. Then inspectors come to see why there is failure. Then other things happen as a result… Do I need to go on? It’s such a messy situation and I don’t know how we ‘quick fix’ that problem!
Me personally, I just ignore the agenda and do the best I can for all of my students. 🙂
…and then there’s the ‘Performance Pay’ issue that is also being talked about again… How do you judge a teacher that performs well? Results? Value added? Likability? Participation numbers? All of the above? Hmmmmm…
I think this is a small snapshot of what people think of these school ‘judgement mechanisms’. Do these comments speak for themselves? Your thoughts are welcome…!