Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Teachers at the Table

The Teachers at the Table Act of 2009, introduced by U.S Senator Russ Feingold, would establish a Voluntary Teacher Advisory Committee to give Congress and the Department of Education input on how education legislation impacts students, families and the classroom learning environment. 

Many of the teachers I interviewed for The Teacher Chronicles contended that teachers should have more input into education policy.  From their vantage point in the trenches, they have firsthand knowledge of how policy decisions affect students, teachers and schools.  Teachers are particularly concerned about the flawed practice of relying on test scores to determine teacher quality.

A teacher from Tennessee said that circumstances often arise that prevent a child from performing well on a test, such as a difficult experience at home the night before.  She told me: “People want education to function like industry; we’re working with human beings.”

An elementary school teacher in Connecticut told me a lack of cooperation from parents can adversely affect a student’s performance on an assessment test. Parents have asked her to excuse their children from assignments because of hockey tournaments, family trips, pageants, or other extracurricular activities and events. She said, “When the parents get the test scores and they are low, they come running to us wondering what happened, asking us what we did wrong, what we didn’t teach their child in order to pass the test.”

A middle school teacher in New York said the most stressful aspect of test preparation is that teachers must rely on each student’s sense of responsibility and level of motivation.  If undisciplined students don’t study for exams or do their homework, and they don’t perform adequately on the tests, it reflects poorly on the teacher.

Perhaps teachers could also express their frustrations with government bureaucracies.  The teacher from Tennessee told me that one year the state education department refused to supply the school with its students’ math assessment scores because one test was missing.  The school repeatedly explained the test had been discarded because a student vomited on it.  The next year, another student vomited on the test.  The teacher sent the vomit-covered test to the education department in a Ziploc bag.

Linking test scores to teacher quality is only one of the many policy issues teachers are uniquely qualified to weigh in on.  A systematic approach to gathering input from teachers is long overdue.

Link to “Calling All Teachers to the Table,” Lynne Varner, The Seattle Times


Link to Teachers at the Table Fact Sheet


1 comment:

  1. LOL @ mailing in the vomit-covered test!