Editor’s note: Names of teachers and students have been changed.
A week ago Thursday — the end of the year for students — brought with it the usual catharsis of the last day.
There were hugs and tears as well as exchanges of notes and cards, gifts and promises, and words of wisdom and encouragement. I shared summer reading recommendations with students who reciprocated with book, movie, and music suggestions for me. That final day was a culmination of the relationships we’ve built and the work we’ve been doing together all year.
The next day, Friday, was the last day for teachers. It’s always the day when schools seem most empty. They feel like a hive once the bees have gone, a useless shell. Friday is the day we finish grading, clean out our classrooms, and take care of all the administrative trivia (book inventories, etc.) that keep schools going but aren’t the meat of what we do.
Thursday is the kind of day that makes me feel most like a teacher, and Friday the kind of day that makes me feel least like one.
But the State of Florida says I have it backwards. Friday, the day without children, was actually the most important day in the final judgment of how I and every other public school teacher in Florida, performed this year.
You see, that’s the day the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores came out.
This year, the biggest single factor in our teacher evaluations is based on student test scores. Those other parts of the job the first 179 days — lesson plans, engaging pedagogy, classroom management, parent contact—are small pieces, but test scores make up fully half of our evaluation.
Florida is not alone.
Teacher evaluations throughout the country are becoming more “data driven” in very destructive ways. We are so entranced with the idea that we can measure every little effect teachers have on students through standardized test scores, that we’ve decided to privilege these over everything else. We’ve chosen to ignore the things we know matter.
Think back to the teacher you remember the most. Do you remember your standardized test scores that year? I doubt it. Yet now we pretend that we cannot know the good teachers until we see the scores of their students.
We are missing what’s most important about teaching when the day FCAT scores are released is the most important of the year. We are missing the human connections that make students into better readers and writers and, more importantly, better people.
They also keep teachers in the profession.
There are many other ways to know who the good teachers are.
Here’s a simple one: Pay attention on Thursday, not Friday. Go to our schools on the last day and see the teachers who are standing in the midst of all the children, given last pats on the back and encouragement, giving and getting hugs, smiles, and tears.
Those are the good ones.
But, unfortunately, we’re paying attention to the wrong day.
Jeremy Glazer is a Miami-Dade teacher writing about classroom issues for StateImpact Florida. Want to sound off on something Glazer has written? Want to suggest a topic for him? Send us an email at Florida@stateimpact.org and put “Classroom Contemplations” in the subject line.