Race to the Top Article Attacks and Attracts

Despite the perky name, Race to the Top is a marathon—and a potentially grueling one; to win, states must take a series of steps that are considered radical in the see-no-evil world of education, where teachers unions have long fought efforts to measure teacher performance based on student test scores and link the data to teacher pay. States must try to identify great teachers, figure out how they got that way, and then create more of them. “This is the wave of the future. This is where we have to go—to look at what’s working and what’s not,” Duncan told me. “It sounds like common sense, but it’s revolutionary.”

What Makes a Great Teacher, The Atlantic

Looking ahead to my own career in education, quotes like these worry me. I know I want to be a good teacher, a teacher who makes a difference (don’t we all?). I know that there are a lot of apathetic teachers out there, and some who may not be uncaring but still fail to teach well. The question that I ask is, “how do we get these kids motivated to do well on the standardized tests?” The teacher could win best of the year award, but the students could still care less about doing well on a standardize test. Are students’ performances on these tests really the best way to pay teachers and “weed out” the bad ones?

Furthermore, what I currently consider to be a band aid program, Teach for America, is what this article is calling as their authority on the matter. Yes, Teach for America is trying to send out qualified people to teach students, to send teachers and young blood where there is strife and apathy. And sometimes their teachers stay. But the program’s requires workers to stay only a few years, perpetuating the high-turn-over rates that hurt students too.

I don’t mean to suggest that this article or Teach for America is all bad. No. This article focuses on the research that Teach for America has done, including looking at how a teacher-to-be’s extracurricular activities in college can “predict greatness”.

I’ll write more, but please share your thoughts with me. I’m not set on one thing or another. Our country needs an education revolution. I’m worried that my future job will only get more stressful and less productive. I want to make a difference, not face the gallows. Flicker Photo from Teach_For_America_27

I’ll add more commentary later.

–Amanda

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2 Comments

Filed under Thoughts on Teaching, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Race to the Top Article Attacks and Attracts

  1. schmi355

    That quote worries me too!!!!!!!!
    It worries me more so that that quote comes from a book who’s title is about what makes a great teacher, even though the quote is about making great test scores. I don’t know how I feel about the whole relation between tests scores and teacher’s pay because we’re really only encouraging teaching for the tests. On the other hand, though, it does keep teachers in-check somewhat.
    I discussed this with my brother who teaches 7th and 8th grade English and he told me, “As long as you are doing your job, you care about teaching, and you care about your students, who really cares if they pay you more for it ?” (This quote was after he told me about how well his students did on their standardized tests) I guess he’s right, but I still don’t know how I feel about it.

    • Your point about “encouraging teaching to the tests” is what worries me too. I would like to think that as long as I am teaching well, that my students will do well on standardize tests…but there’s no real incentive for students to perform well. Look at Michigan–we’ve had to dismiss the MEAP scholarship. For me, that the major motivation for paying attention to the MEAP. I didn’t know that my scores could affect my teachers or my school.

      But even if we are clear with our students, they are still leaving the school within a short amount of time–there’s not a long-term connection, they’re in, then out of school. How can we judge a teacher’s work based on the outcome of unmotivated students? It gives me a headache! I try to think of some easy, cheap(er) way of assessing the skills of students and teachers, but it seems so impossible. We already have acknowledged nine types of intelligences (H. Gardner)–how can we try to assess such a variety of learners? Learning styles? Teaching styles?

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