Floridians get to look up their teachers’ test scores now, courtesy of The Florida Times Union (they actually went to court for this), even though it is just a week after the death of Ethan Rediske. Tell me, Times Union Editor Frank Denton, how did his teacher do?
If you aren’t one of the many still choking-up with tears on social media over Ethan’s death, or marveling at his mother’s speech in support of his teacher and against testing students with severe disabilities, then just know it is out there. That’s what’s happening.
Social media, while not perfect, tends to display the real news these days.
Still, when I heard about the release of teacher Value-Added Modeling (VAM) scores in Florida it sickened me and I couldn’t help but think what terrible timing. Are they that out of touch?
Social media is on fire when it comes to Ethan’s death, but the newspapers, instead, are still going after teachers. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. Many in the mainstream media bought into this witch hunt years ago. The circumstances surrounding Ethan’s death don’t matter to them. Showing scores berates teachers and sells papers.
And who are all these parents who, we are told, want to know what the scores are? Do they attend PTA meetings? Are they involved in their schools? Do they even know their child’s teachers? If they did—they would know their child’s test scores and they would also know the teacher/s. If you are active in your child’s education you figure out pretty fast if the teacher is any good. Good parents are like bloodhounds when it comes to their child’s education!
Many testing experts understand that VAM is not currently appropriate for evaluating teachers. Even the RAND Corporation describes how value-added estimates are not absolute indicators of effectiveness. The State of Tennessee recently took steps to back away from this approach. Here’s a more detailed description of the problems surrounding VAM from the Washington Post.
Reporters should instead do some investigative journalism as to why students with severe disabilities in the state have been even required to take a standardized test, let alone be expected to provide an excuse to opt out as they lay dying in a hospice.
For example, instead of the obsession over VAM scores, below are some juicy questions reporters could ask the Orange County School District, the State Board, and the legislature about testing and ethical judgement. If they did this kind of reporting, maybe I’d go back to buying newspapers.
Questions for Orange County Public Schools and the State of Florida:
- Did you know Ethan Rediske and his family?
- Have you contacted Ethan’s mother to get her views on the needs for students with severe disabilities?
- How do you now plan to support other families like Ethan’s?
- Did you know Ethan’s teacher?
- Have you since spoken to Ethan’s teacher and mother about the difficulties his teacher faces teaching her students?
- Have you since gone and spent some time observing the other students—maybe even helping out?
- Are you aware of the many parents, just in Florida, seeking to opt their children out of the tests? That’s right. They are so sick of tests they don’t want their kids taking them.
- Did you provide grief counseling for Ethan’s teacher and the other students?
- Did you do anything for the family during their trial—like provide a warm meal?
- Did you visit with the family in their home or at the hospice during Ethan’s final days?
- Why wasn’t Ethan more important than the test?
- Have you learned a lesson?
- Is it not unusual, even cruel, to demand that all students, even those with serious disabilities, master the same standards?
- Why is it necessary, after this incident, to have to be forced, through legislation, to express compassion and demonstrate common sense?
- Is the State of Florida that full of mean people?
- Are you doing something wrong in this state?
- Do you know the VAM score of Ethan’s teacher—and why does it matter?
Where is the overall conversation about this on the part of America’s leaders? For that matter, where’s the President? Does he not always speak against high-stakes testing? What does he think about posting scores that will unfairly hurt a teacher’s professional reputation or about students with severe disabilities being forced to take a test?
Perhaps these education concerns are much more important than the politicos know. They might want to check out social media and consider who will be voting next time around. Frustrated and angry teachers and parents might matter more than they understand.
In the meantime, “Shame on you, Florida! Shame on you!”