The Washington Post announced that Sarah Wysocki has been fired. She got great reviews for her classroom performance. Kids liked her, her principal liked her. But the test scores of her students were not good enough.
There is wide agreement that teaching to the test is a vapid way to educate kids. There is wide agreement that young kids should be on the playground way more than they are right now. It’s just that we can’t think of another way to manage education on such a huge scale as the US public school system requires.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put enough money toward solving this problem that we have enough data to know we have nothing that even approximates a solution.
Here’s the most important information we have: It’s clear that we should evaluate teachers on something besides test scores. But everything else is valid only after years of data collection. So, for example, both Michelle Rhee, a leading explorer of of school reform, and research funded by the Gates Foundation conclude that you cannot know if a teacher is a good teacher, really, unless you evaluate over many years, to account for difficult, or especially good, groups of kids.
What’s news is that parents cannot tell if they have a good teacher or not. And when parents ask a parent of a kid who had the teacher the year before, that parent doesn’t have good information either. The data pool is too small.
So parents have very little good information to manage their kids education. None of them have access to long-term data, unless they live in LA or NYC where journalists have demanded access under the Freedom of Information Act.
So what blows me away is that this article, about the teacher being fired, has 1000 comments. It’s parents who know they are sending their kids into a lousy school system but the parents can’t admit that they can’t influence it.
I think we are mired in denial. Parents don’t want to face the real problem, which is that the prospect of homeschooling is overwhelming. To create real reform in your kid’s education—by homeschooling—that would be difficult and scary.
Settling for a discussion about school reform is a path of denial. The real issue is that you have to scale back your spending and your career goals and your idea of how exciting your adult life will be. Your adult life will need to be much more focused on your kids. And obsessing about school reform is a way to avoid the realities of adult life.