Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Life in the Pressure Cooker

I came home from school and saw that a friend had tagged me on Facebook with a link to an article. What was the headline to the article? Shame on Michelle Rhee by Diane Ravitch. It's no secret that I'm a recent Diane Ravitch fan after her appearance on The Daily Show. I even went out and bought her book! I was delighted to see she'd written a piece about Michelle Rhee. What's the gist? Oh, there was a lot of cheating while Rhee was in charge of the DC schools. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm just not.

If your job depended on kids filling in the right bubble, could you stop yourself from helping them? If you could get more money based on how the kids filled in the bubbles, what would you do? You've seen hundreds of teachers fired and principals let go based on silly, little bubbles on a test. What are you going to do?

Apparently, some teachers and principals decided they'd just help some of the kids along. I'd like to think that I'm a good person with a lot of integrity, but I've never been in that exact situation. I'd like to think I'd do the right thing and just focus on teaching my students, but I haven't been there yet.

I doubt Michelle Rhee told the teachers to cheat. In fact, she might be surprised to find out that there was cheating going on at all. The fact of the matter is that data driven education and tying teachers' jobs so closely to test results breeds the type of environment where cheating can run rampant.

There's no panacea to fixing schools. If there was, it wouldn't be testing, data or merit pay. It's clear from the article that Rhee asked for higher test scores and she got them. The problem was that they didn't come with better learning.

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