What We’re Definitely Talking About

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Jay-Z in concert

I hate being Joel Klein’s messenger.

I’m not directly that, but today, at a common prep meeting, I found myself having to blunt the rather acute message that sometime this week, NYC teachers would receive teacher evaluative reports. From my vague understanding, the reports yield a summative (and opaque) view of a teachers’ success in academic achievement as they pertain to the New York State tests over the last four years. This year’s focus is on English / Language Arts and Math teachers, it seems, and this nugget comes a week after Joel Klein told every educator possible that this report should help determine whether teachers get tenure and / or (implicitly) their capacity for joining one’s staff during the Open Market Process in the summer.

When I met with teachers, I found myself annoyed, not simply at the varied (but typical) responses to this news, but moreso at the men and women who decided that giving such a report 8 weeks before our statewide ELA test and 9 weeks before our math test was the best idea ever.

What we’re talking about here is a failure to communicate.
We’re talking about how obtuse such an instrument is.
We’re talking about how quickly we’ve shifted from calling the principals “CEOs” of their school, but creating malcontent and depleted morale in their schools at such a critical time of the school year.
What we’re talking about is the children. Not just as your little punchline, but as a regular part of our study.
We’re talking about how best to pick apart an exam that was just renormed, and that no one has any idea about except its date.
We’re talking about unequal pay and unequal press in the news.
We’re talking about upgrading pedagogy.
A few of us are talking about lawyers and what happened in the past, but most of us are thinking forward and not just to the weekend.
A few of us only talk about parents, not most of us talk about making them an integral part of the educational process, even when some may not understand how to go about that.

This is only a small selection of the things we discuss on a daily basis, but now much of this gets supplanted by having to achieve a magical number. The teachers who have low-achieving students (and for purposes of this essay, I’m using standardized testing measures to discuss achievement. I rarely associate those two words) will already feel condemned because, no matter what the truth says, they’ll always feel they’ll start out at a disadvantage. Those who have the higher achieving students won’t get credit for moving students up, especially because the gap between good and great is so narrow.

And this is what we have to talk about now. Joel Klein’s quantified the unquantifiable. The corporations and educrats smile along. The people in the front lines fall one by one.

Jose, who’s talking about progress and he ain’t lookin’ back …