Sunday, September 16, 2012

Going Public: Why I went on strike!

I've decided to stop keeping this blog such a secret. Of course, that doesn't mean that any more than the four people who read it now (Thanks Chris, Michael, Brian, and Dad!) will read it. But I'm fed up. I'm fed up with ignorance disguised as common sense. I'm fed up with I-work-harder-than-you-do. And there are so many bloggers out there whose work I admire. I would really love to be able to add my voice to the mix.

So here goes! I am a proud member of the Chicago Teachers Union, and right now we are on strike. I went on strike because my district is trying to impose changes that will be bad for students. The biggest sticking point, for me, is an evaluation process that would use so-called "student growth measures" (i.e., test scores) as 40% of a teacher's rating. This basically means that you could get an unsatisfactory rating if your students' test scores did not go up.

Last year, my students' test scores did not go up. In fact, for my brightest class, they went down. Even though I know all the research that discredits value-added measurement, and even though I know that my particular network's way of assessing "growth" is particularly mathematically sketchy, I was still devastated. Why? Because I have so internalized the idea that my students should be able to do better on the test if they've actually learned in my classroom. This is just plain false. The test that we use was not designed to be used this way.

But this goes beyond my evaluation and my rating. I am vehemently opposed to the whole regime of high-stakes testing, and this strike is proving to be an opportunity to have a national conversation about how much testing is damaging our children and their futures. Sadly, that opportunity is being overlooked by most news outlets in favor of the so-called "personality clash" between Rahm Emanuel and Karen Lewis, or in favor of wild misinformation about how much teachers get paid. But I have seen the narrowing of the curriculum first-hand. I have 9th graders who know almost no geography or grammar--these aren't tested on the ISAT. I see students who seem to have lost their imaginations some time in the 1st grade because imagination isn't tested. I see my 11-year-old niece describe herself in terms of her score.

After 10 years of NCLB and 3 of RTTT, we are raising a generation of children who have been failed by terrible federal education policies created by people who think they know better than teachers how to educate children. It's time to stop this. And that is why I am on strike.