Test the Teachers – Yes

It’s Monday morning during summer vacation and an evaluation meeting is about to begin.  The meeting is to discuss the proficiency of Miss Greta Fafootnik and whether or not the local public middle school where she teaches should grant her tenure or send her packing.  The probationary period was 3 years, where Miss Fafootnik had just completed here service as an introductory French teacher.  The school board members are the school Principal Mr. James Scratchead, the district Superintendent of Schools Mrs. Dorothy Middlemouth and the school’s oldest schoolmarm Mrs. Mable Fingerpoynt.

“Good morning Miss Fafootnik and thank you for being here today,” said Mrs. Middlemouth.

“I’m excited to be here,” Miss Fafootnik answered.

“As you well know, we on this panel will decide if  our middle school will grant you tenure and keep you on as a French teacher.  However, we have received numerous complaints from some of the local high school intermediate French teachers that the students who’ve sat in your classes have not been able to read, write or translate even 10 of the simplest words any French language student should learn.  So we three here were wondering if you could explain your system of evaluating if a student has a basic understanding of the subject material.”  Middlemouth asked.

“Well certainly,” Fafootnik replied, “They take an oath.”

The panel looking around the table at each other with perplexed expressions shrugged their shoulders.

“I simply have all my students stand up on the first day of class, raise their right hands and swear or aver to listen to the lectures, read the material, do their homework assignments and attend class daily.  Once they’ve done that, it’s simply reasonable to expect that they will carry out that oath and complete the semester’s work.  I mean, who wouldn’t?”  She beamed.

Scratchead chimed in next, “You mean you trust them implicitly to do the work and complete the course on their own?”

“Well they can hardly help but succeed by listening to my exemplary lectures and thus become immersed by my charming personality, attire and good looks.  The motivation from that alone elevates them to high levels of learning the French language.”  She proudly stated.

Mable Fingerpoynt was next: “You mean you don’t give them exams to evaluate their learning progress?”   

“Certainly not!” exclaimed Fafootnik.  “What good would that do?  It would simply show that they knew how to take and pass or fail an exam, not learn French!”

“Quite frankly Miss Fafootnik, we are seriously considering whether we should use student test scores to hold teachers accountable for their students’ progress.  We think that a student’s learning should be directly attributable to their teacher’s ability to actually teach them.” Scratchead said.

“What a preposterous notion!” Fafootnik bellowed.  “Those students who can’t pass your so-called exam will simply demonstrate their lack of honesty by obviously reneging against their oaths which would be entirely unthinkable.  Besides I’m a union member and you can’t fire me without just cause!”

If the above cartoon seems laughable and ridiculous, how far can it be from the truth?  If we don’t use student test scores to evaluate a teacher’s performance, how shall we do it?  How, after a probationary period, does a school board decide if the teacher is a keeper or not?  Do we just collect the state and federal funds given to schools for average daily attendance and just keep them moving through the system?  Little wonder that we have more foreign trained workers in our high tech jobs than American trained kids.

In virtually any other occupation, certification or evaluation process – employees, unskilled or highly trained must be evaluated to see if they know how to perform their jobs, don’t they?  Maybe we’ll let a student enter medical school if he/she simply takes an oath.  I’d be happy to let them remove my appendix simply on a promise.  Wouldn’t you?