>Dear President Obama;
I’m worried. My state, like many others, is in a budget crisis, and it’s affecting education. Wisconsin is one of many who covet a piece of the economic stimulus pie. To stand a chance, however, we’d have to change laws. Important laws. Laws that govern how I do my job – and how to evaluate if I’m doing it right.
Mr. President, in order to be eligible for stimulus money, test scores must be used as part of teacher evaluations. That’s where I get nervous.
You see, Mr. Obama, I teach in a unique neighborhood. The gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is huge. You name it, I teach kids who’ve lived it. Poverty. Homelessness. Abuse, physical and otherwise. English Language Learners who read at a kindergarten level – in fourth grade. Transient families who move at least twice each year. Families who care about their children and want them to learn, but struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table, with no energy left for homework assistance, no money for books.
This is a great school with a great staff. We’re not shy about accountability. Sit in on a staff meeting and you’ll hear us discuss ways to do more with less- less money, less time, less respect.
However, we can’t control our raw product. If I were producing paper and received an inferior load of pulpwood, I’d refuse to accept it. If I ran a restaurant and my supplier brought me poor quality meat, I’d send it back. I can’t control my class list; I have to teach them all, reach them all. That challenge is a part of the joy of my work.
I speak for many teachers when I say we want all children to succeed. We continue to work with each child, finding time when there is none, motivating those who are incredibly behind to make as much progress as possible. I’d love to see the child who reads like a second grader improve to a fifth grade level on my watch. I’ll work toward that goal every minute that this young person is in my class. But if this child fails a state test one day, a test mandated by the folks in some faraway city, should it hurt my career? My paycheck? My job security? My reputation?
If the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder runs out of medicine the day of the test, please don’t blame me for the way her scores drop when she can’t focus. I want her to succeed even more than she does. When the bipolar student hits a major depression, let me help him get counseling and medical care; don’t force me to force him to fill in the bubbles on a high-stakes exam.
President Obama, please rethink this part of your program. Instead of No Teacher Left Untested, let’s apply stimulus money toward leaving no child behind.