The public is demanding accountability, but accountability must be fair and equitable.
L. Hunnicutt “Arizona’s school grading system: so little knowledge, so many opinions”
I love the word ‘equity’ in fact I used it just yesterday. I was discussing the situation of a teaching assistant at our school. She works in a cross-categorical special education classroom and just before school started she had taken a class on Autism Spectrum issues which is very current as a professional development opportunity for her job. She was of course paid for the class but she was also told that because she had taken the course she must give up one of her grading days.
Grading days are when teachers and their ancillary colleagues compile grades and then work like crazy to try and get done in one day everything they have been putting off all quarter. In other words, for most educational professionals they are days that are golden, a day to just work, without the students there, and it’s not a weekend or vacation day.
I could not understand why she should have to give up a day of work thus negating the fact that she had taken time out of her own schedule to get better at her job. That would mean that while she got paid for her time; as an hourly employee she would give up that same amount of pay on a later check. Teachers do not have to give up a personal day to take classes during the summer — if they did no one would do it. For me it was a question of equity . . .
equity – noun ( pl. -ties)
1. the quality of being fair and impartial : equity of treatment.
New Oxford American Dictionary
. . . a white collar worker should not be forced to give up a day’s pay when a certified teacher would not.
So you would think a great fan of ‘equity’ like myself would be a staunch adherent of the school grading system described by Ms. Hunnicutt as “fair and equitable”. If it was, I would be.
The problem is, there is no equity in education. There is none for teachers, schools or students.
Equity would mean that each school would have the same funding, the same curriculum, the same materials, teachers equally well trained, access to the same technology, the same family dynamics, the same involvement in PTA; the list goes on and on and on; it would be laughable if it was not so damnably true.
No, I am sorry to say I do not buy the idea that this evaluation tool for teachers will have any equity. And I do not subscribe to the idea that rating a school that has 600 students and 20 teachers, with a 60% mobility rating and a socioeconomic base that includes 90% free and reduced lunch is any way equitable with a school of 300 students with 20 teachers and 20% free and reduced lunch. The effort involved with one accessing a ‘B’ rating and the other getting the same ‘B’ rating is in no way equal. And either one being rated a ‘D’ for any reason is punitive to those teachers and students who are working so hard.
What’s more, to further castigate the sacred cows of education, I don’t believe in AYP! It is simply one of the most pervasive myths currently in fashion in education. That seven year old child who started the year in a group home and lived in three foster placements in one year didn’t make AYP? Why not? What is wrong with that teacher?
The only equitable method of evaluating a child’s progress is to look at where that child enters the school year, what they have happen to them in that year and how much they grow as an individual in that school year. And the only person who is willing to take that data and assess and understand it, is that child’s teacher. No one else is going to take the time, or care.
How do you rate your postman? How do you rate your fire department? How do you rate your police force? Answer, you don’t; you trust them to do their job. You count on them to be there when you need them and you believe they work in their field because they are committed to it.
People want teachers to be accountable? They leave their kids with them for 7 hours every day. Has any competent parent ever done that with someone they don’t trust? Isn’t that the ultimate test? Would you leave your child with someone you don’t trust to be accountable?
And here is the ultimate kicker to my argument. Hunnicutt’s article states: “The public is demanding accountability . . .” and in a limited sense, that statement is true but at it’s core it is also totally false. The public is demanding accountability from those other schools. Google it and see, (http://www.azschoolsmakeadifference.org/A_survey.pdf Page 3). Over and over again parents report they are satisfied with the effort of their school in educating their children, it is the other schools that need to be reformed, even those in the same district.
For example, the data from the 2011 survey of the Washington DC schools features the following interesting parent response numbers: Overall rating of your school – 73% favorable; your district – 49% favorable. Will you keep your children in this school system? – 83%. Will you recommend your school to others? – 81% (http://www.dc.gov/DCPS/Files/downloads/). Ergo, my school is fine; those others in the district need the work.
Sorry, this system of evaluating teachers is not fair, it is not equitable; it is simply misdirected. No, where evaluation is needed is in our off-stated commitment to our most valuable resource: our children. If we are truly going to say that we believe this then we need to stop short-changing our future, stop pushing aside those who can least afford our inattention. It is time to support children and fund their education and those who deliver it. Nowhere is that more true than in the State of Arizona. You want to evaluate something? Evaluate our true commitment to educating our children.