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October 4, 2011

Learning not Teacher evaluation should be the emphasis of media

By Susan Lee Schwartz

Once again a major newspaper in their top editorial is advocating a 'reform' that is the antithesis of what is really needed "This is the environment we are living in, and it's fundamentally undermining democracy which is based on knowing some good and solid information, so one can make an informed choice." David Brock, Media Matters, in the video "Outfoxed"


I for one, have had enough of this rant "to tie teachers evaluation to the tests." Anyone who pushes this is part of the problem as this is no solution and will leave all children behind the rest of the world, especially in countries that value their professionals and know what learning looks like. The editorial in The NY Times, today (October 1, 2010) is yet another disservice to public education and to teacher-practitioners, and moreover, it continues this national conversation which focuses on teachers rather than on learning. 

One is reminded of the chant that 'deficit-reduction' is what this country needs, when it was the antithesis of the remedy that is needed to produce jobs and thus consumer consumption. This repeating of  'the chant'  for  bogus evaluation of teachers,  has wrought the same destruction on public schools. Teacher, like  doctors need to practice the profession for which their education and their intellect has prepared them. That practice is all about enabling learning, not memorizing information. 

Institute "The Eight Principles of Learning", which was the real thesis for which Pew paid millions to research. Standardized tests were NEVER one of the principles, although there was a single principle regarding  genuine assessment and evaluation... and that one was for the classroom practitioner, to provide information that would enable the teacher to plan effectively to reach all the emergent learners.  However, testing meant big money for privateers and the race to the top became  a race for that money, not to raise our education system BACK to where it was before the experienced teachers fled into retirement when they were no longer able to facilitate learning under the policies that had replaced their lessons for learning  with memory tasks. Storerooms filled with tests and test prep materials, and the practitioner was disabled, no longer able to plan or implement lessons based on the performance of the child, as evaluate in that classroom.

Most teachers who do not find themselves sent packing after their probationary period is over and their salary is about to rise, run for the door, their desire to teach decimated by a system that does not allow them to be the professional in the practice. 80% leave in five years, and THAT is a genuine statistic. This is a continued attack on the dedicated career professional-- the practitioner of pedagogy (facilitating learning in ways in which the human brain actually acquires SKILLS, and knowledge).

It is all about LEARNING, not teaching.

 Yes, there needs to be a fair evaluation system because the subjective, destructive evaluation system which allows management to destroy careers through bogus 'documentation,' is not working. The American Educator reports on the myriad of  schools that have solved this problem with realistic evaluation systems, but The N.Y. Times and the self-appointed 'reformers' and pundits rant on about tying teachers to valueless tests. 

For decades before the government stepped in with its policies to improve education and demand 'standards', our public schools produced a fine education for our people. The question to ask, is what changed?  The answer will demonstrate that it was not the quality of teachers, but the interference by non-educators who have no conception of what learning looks like, or what the 'grunt' on the line, the teacher, or the 'practitioner' actually must do to motivate the students to learn. Teachers have not suddenly become incompetent, the system has changed the practice to confirm to anti-learning agendas, assuring the failure of the public school system. 

The 'genuine' Standards (the Harvard thesis that WAS the New Standards) had 8 principles for "learning,' and four of them were directed at the school itself, insuring that classrooms are not only properly supplied, but are safe, quiet and conducive to learning. When teachers enter a classroom with today's population of students, their hands (and mouths) are 'tied.' They cannot do what teachers have done in the past, planned interesting  lessons to meet objectives (real performance standards) judging what is needed, not merely to determine content, and using their experience and knowledge base  to motivate and sustain interest. They must teach to a test, not provide interesting lessons that stimulate critical thinking and real learning. They must also provide materials -- many spending thousands, as I did in NYC, to provide classroom supplies and learning  materials. 

The school cultures are too often set by abusive administrators who do nothing to enable learning, but persecute practitioners, and in too many schools, they are lawless bullies with personal agendas. This is a national scandal, and there is a total blackout on the abusive deprivation of due process which allows administration to attack dedicated Americans who happen to be powerless. Grievance processes have failed to protect them, and the media , controlled by those who profit from the failure of public education spread the same propaganda that they use to disable our political process. 

How hard is this to grasp? It is NOT the teachers! Yes, poorly performing novices need help to manage the students and implement learning objectives that succeed, but  classrooms filled to overflowing make it impossible for individual learners to participate, and  are filled not merely with distracted, modern, 'internet -bred' kids with low attention spans and little exposure to language or literacy in their childhood, but with problem students-- often disabled learners and kids with behavioral problems  who are 'mainstreamed' so that dealing with their interference becomes the only object, and maintaining order overrides learning objectives. 

Practitioners facilitate learning. They don't merely 'teach.' Learning occurs when conditions are right. Isn't it time we heard about the real standards for LEARNING?

I have written before on the subject of the subversion of the national conversation, and the total blackout of the war on teachers, the real reasons that schools are failing. 
"Bamboozle Em", appeared here, and "Subverting the National Conversation" appeared on perdaily dot com.

I also wrote to an essay on "A Constitutional Scandal" (part one, and part two)  where Americans who happen to be teachers, are deprived of their right to due process. This is the underlying practice that has emptied the schools and silenced the voices of the professional educator, allowing pundits and self-procalimed 'experts' many of whom ran public school systems (into the ground) to manipulate the media.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

I began teaching in 1963,; Ba and BS in Education -Brooklyn College. I have the equivalent of 2 additional Master's, mainly in Literacy Studies and Graphic Design. I was the only seventh grade teacher of English from 1990 -1999 at East Side Middle School, which opened in 1990. My students placed amongst the highest reading and (eventually, when the ELA tests were instituted) writing scores in NYC. This attracted Harvard, looking for teachers who could be matched to "The Eight Principles of Learning", the thesis by Harvard's Lauren Resnick, that powered the Standards project, funded by Pew.

In 1998, based on the assessment of my teacher-practice by the Learning & Research Development Center, at the University of Pittsburgh, which studied my teacher-practice after I was chosen to participate in THE Standards project , I was awarded the NYSEC (New York State English Council)) "Educator of Excellence of Award," a much coveted and PRESTIGIOUS award. I have been included five times, in "Who's Who Among American Educators". Now that I am "googleable" as former students tell me, I get scores of letters from former students describing the enormous impact that I had on their life.

Currently I am a freelance travel writer and photographer, but I also write widely, about real education reform in order to change the national conversation to where it needs to be -- ABOUT LEARNING, and what makes genuine learning possible, or impossible, rather on the bogus subject of poor teachers and teacher standards. Learning how to learn--critical thinking--not rote memorization-- is the object of the PRACTICE OF PEDAGORY for which teacher who wish to PRACTICE THIS PROFESSION get a degree and a license.

I write because people with loud voices and personal agendas have destroyed the practice of pedagogy, and silenced the voice of the only ones who can set the record straight, the grunt on the line -- the teacher-practitioner--a genuine professional trained to know exactly what is needed to facilitate learning in each particular classroom.

I speak as a teacher and write because:

* those who have the national stage, are pushing tests, and pointing to bad teaching, as the reasons schools fail, but that is pointing in the wrong direction and thus a genuine solution and real reform eludes the people of this country..

* the national conversation has been usurped by businessmen and pundits with no understanding of the emergent learner, or the actual classroom practices that enable creative and critical thought. (Everyone who went to school believes they know what is needed "to teach".)

* What is REALLY NECESSARY for children to LEARN in school, is pre-school literacy, parent involvement in shaping attitudes and monitoring home activities, and classrooms where the teacher-practitioner sets the agenda based on curriculum objectives and the knowledge of pedagogy, rather than AN AGENDA SET BY some administrator who never taught, and who promotes the scripts and tests that enrich privateers who thrive on failing schools.

I speak as a teacher and write because:

* corrupt administrators, use a process that targets senior teacher-practitioners, despite exceptional dedication and huge success in their career, for harassment and egregious, criminal deprivation of due process.

* there is a hidden and scandalous deprivation of due process -- allowed and empowered by unions which do not fulfill their obligation and contract for immediate investigation and fair, promt, grievance procedures, thus permitting a "waiting game" which prevents due process.

* the national assumption expressed in the media is that the unions protect teachers BUT the truth is the unions have looked away from the breaking of tenure, and THUS, as they are the legal arm that protects teachers, teachers have lost their civil rights, and have no genuine access to the courts.

I speak as a teacher and write because: