I just read the editorial, "The Challenges in Our Schools," in The Express on Sept. 19, 2012 and I must say that I couldn't agree more with its contents!
I just retired after more than 38 years of teaching, and having taught more than 21 of those years in public school education, I can say from experience that no truer words could have been written.
I started my teaching career in 1974, and by the time I concluded teaching in the public schools by the mid-1990s, I noticed a tremendous difference in the students entering my room, primarily as a result of their changing home lives. I saw our schools and us teachers picking up more of the slack and "becoming surrogate parents." And, this is even more prevalent today than it was almost 20 years ago.
Despite this, I agree that we need to be held accountable for doing the best job we can do to meet the needs and educational goals of our students. Ironically, long before the "No Child Left Behind" legislation and the PSSAs, the school district in which I taught way back when held us teachers accountable by establishing its own testing program based on the district's curricula. However, once the test results were revealed and the principal sat down with each of us to discuss how our students fared, our administrators considered factors that were out of our control when doing so: the intellectual and motivational levels of our students, in addition to their home environment. We also recognized that the test was just a single "snapshot" of the students' performances as opposed to how they may have performed on a daily basis.
We would also look at how individual classes and students performed in past years to facilitate in evaluating not only the students' performances, but the teachers, as well. As a result of this experience, I agree with the points in the editorial that it's not realistic to evaluate teachers based on student test scores or for pay raises and that "there's too much focus on test results."
Unfortunately, these are only just a few of the issues that face school districts today because of all the federal and state mandates imposed upon them that are primarily underfunded by both the state and federal government. Therefore, I concur with the statements in the article "that public schools' hands are tied by bureaucracy when it comes to innovation," but that "we must be, we have to be up to the challenges."