This Is What Ticks Me Off About “Education Reform”

Teacher Response to VAM
VAM is junk science and misses the point of education. We are killing altruism when we encourage service for selfish reasons.

Pardon my French.

  • It isn’t that corporations are destroying public education so they can have the profits for themselves.
  • It isn’t that we’re re-segregating our schools in the name of “choice.”
  • It isn’t that my value as a teacher will be determined by the whims of a group of adolescents.

What chaps my hide is: [tweet_dis]We’re turning an altruistic calling on a teacher’s life into a selfish, money-grubbing, dog-eat-dog exercise in child abuse.[/tweet_dis]

Instead of encouraging teachers to collaborate with each other for the benefit of ALL our students, our educational “leaders” are putting us into positions where we’ll be enticed to ignore the students who need us the most in favor of cultivating growth from those students who are most likely to flourish anyway.

Teachers should help students grow out of an altruistic concern for their well-being. Most teachers have felt an early calling to devote their lives to the enrichment of our young people. But now:

[tweet_box]Teachers are being prodded to induce student growth for completely selfish reasons: To keep our jobs, or get more money.[/tweet_box]

This sickens me.

This is what is destroying the profession. This is why we have ethical violations in schools across our nation.

In order to break down the teaching profession, ed reformers are setting up teachers to compete against one another.[tweet_dis]Instead of collaborating for all students, we are encouraged to climb over the backs of students and other teachers to achieve success.[/tweet_dis]

What are we doing to our children, our society? I say it is tearing apart the very fabric of our society. We are teaching children that they should either succeed, even at the expense of others, or roll over and play dead because they have no hope.

What does this look like in the corporate world? Consider these stories:

Instead, we should be modeling how to foster community, how to lend a helping hand to others, how to collaborate with one another. American culture is full of these kinds of stories. Just look at the stories in the newspaper after a natural disaster, or read about how communities come together to help someone who has been hurt, even if that someone is of the four-legged variety.

Yet this is not what we’re teaching in school now.

What are we teaching?

  • If you aren’t reading by third grade, you’re a failure.
  • If you want to succeed, you must score higher than your friends.
  • If you want a job, you have to make sure you’re better than others.

Instead, we should be teaching our students that they all have a purpose, that they all are talented and gifted in different ways. We should be helping all of our students figure out what their talents/gifts are and helping them use those abilities as best they can. We should be teaching our student that they matter. Fellow educator Jennifer Blackshare explains better than I can right now what I’m trying to say.

Now, our “leaders” are wanting to take this system of tying student performance to our teacher education institutions. This will encourage the best institutions to send their students to the richest schools with the fewest needy students. So much for altruism.

If you’d like to tell our leaders NO, send an email to the U.S. Department of Education protesting VAM for teacher education. You can read more about this proposal and submit your comments via Diane Ravitch’s blog here.




Related topics: Education Policy

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

  1. Wow!!! This is awesome. It’s exactly what I have been trying to communicate to people. I feel honored that you referred to me! I’m sure you already read this, but my experience with VAM is already a nightmare. It took me several days to get off the cliff after receiving my score. As teachers we want so desperately to know we are doing a good job. VAM is the last thing we need!!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Jennifer. More people need to understand what teachers — and students — are facing. Not only is it disheartening for teachers to receive a slap in the face after a year of hard work (especially those teachers in high poverty schools), but students are devastated as well. You and I, once we get past the initial shock, can mentally separate those test scores from our identities. But young children and adolescents aren’t mature enough to do that yet. If you tell them they failed the test, these kids think that THEY are the failures, not the system. I fear for this next generation, and it breaks my heart.

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