“A, how would you feel if my batting average determined whether or not you made the baseball team?”
A, who is quite the baseball player responded, “Ummmm, that wouldn’t be good.”
“B, how would you feel if my ability to run up and down the soccer field determined whether or not you made the soccer team?”
B, who is quite the soccer player responded, “Not good.”
“C, how would you feel if my musical ability affected your placement in choir…come to think of it, that’s a bad example.”
The class laughed at this last exchange, as they know I have some musical talent. But I was driving home my point:
“Your performance on this test could, at some point, determine whether or not I get to keep teaching. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but if at some point the principal or the district was looking for a way to let me go, these test scores would be one piece of evidence that would either save my job or ensure that I lose it.”
Of course the kids recognize the unfairness of it all, and I do, from time to time, remind them that life isn’t fair. But to pin my career on how 97 students perform on any given day on a reading test in which they have zero vested interest? That is something beyond unfair. Yet it’s where I am, and what I’ve been stewing over the past two days as I watch a couple of students finish in 10 minutes, as I have to rouse a couple from a deep sleep, as I worry and worry if all the work I’ve done with them to this point can truly be measured by a random selection of texts and questions.
Most of my students are trying hard, I can tell. But the number of mitigating circumstances—hunger, abuse, bullying, boys, girls, hormones, etc.—do not create a level playing field at all.
So when—or if—the education debate heats up again in Congress, I hope to see the same level of attention and rhetoric as I’ve seen the past two months with health care. Not that I want any bricks thrown through windows or anything, I just want awareness.
And, perhaps, a little fairness.