I have the greatest respect for people who work with their hands: people who fix, install, remodel, build and create things. I much appreciate their work, especially since I'm not an expert at most of those things and need those services periodically. I appreciate and respect their expertise and quality of their work, but if I were in a life/death situation and needed life-saving, life-altering, or life-changing surgery, I probably wouldn't call my favorite carpenter, electrician, plumber, roofer, builder, repairperson, or auto mechanic to lay out the surgical procedures and/or assist the doctor performing the surgery.
There's been much discussion lately of new teacher evaluation policies across the U.S., especially in New York state. It seems to be coming down to some people not associated with classrooms, daily activities within classrooms, people who used to be in classrooms but have been far removed from them and people who've never been in a classroom other than when they were students, who want to create an evaluation procedure which has ranges of possibilities from teachers getting a raise in some places to teachers possibly losing their job in other places.
There are many who seem to think they know where to place the blame for the world's problems, who to blame for situations regarding crime, unemployment, economics, etc. It's discussed in ivory towers, grocery stores, hair salons, on golf courses and at favorite "watering holes." "It's the school's fault," or "It's those overpaid, underworked teachers who have made school taxes go so high," "They get too many days off," etc. The evaluation process in question might allow some, or all, of those critics, who've not been in the classroom, who have no clue as to what really goes on in individual classrooms, yet who may think that giving one standardized test to children with different abilities and different educational capabilities is a fair and equitable evaluation of student performance possibly determining the fate of dedicated, hardworking educators. Using such a test which says every student is the same ability wise, I guess, then, might validate the philosophy which would allow auto mechanics to perform surgery, and vice versa.
A question raised in the evaluation discussion concerns whether excessive absences by students would be considered in the success, or lack thereof, of students' achievement. One response by the education commissioner was that he'd like schools to work with families to get the students to school more often. Why are schools being asked to handle yet another responsibility that should be the onus of the home? And what if the student continues his/her chronic absences? That's obviously going to affect the success of that student, most probably negatively, which might put the teacher at risk of suffering some kind of "demerit."
Another question, and suggestion, concerns whether the list of evaluated teachers should be made public. Why? Laborers and shift workers in manufacturing plants, and teachers and bus drivers, and office workers, and salespersons, and others in similar positions of employment don't usually get to rank their bosses, employers, owners of the company, or CEOs, and post the rankings on the company bulletin board, or send it to local media for publication, and how about the parents who want to see this evaluation ranking? I'm sure teachers could put together an evaluation ranking for parents who enable children to not go to school regularly, or get homework done, or conform to school and classroom rules, or who defend their children when they're in the wrong, or who cover for the child when they're late for school, etc.
Still another question had to do with the evaluation in the academic core subjects and the standardized tests given in those classrooms (with possible consequences attached to them) as opposed to the unified arts subjects which would have a set of expectations much different from the academic core subjects. Also, if I had students in my class who are/were in band/orchestra, I would demand that that child not be able to leave his/her academic core subjects to go to band/orchestra or any class that might run concurrent with the academic core subject class that I was teaching and where I'd be evaluated on based upon the success of that student. And if that happened, who would suffer for the loss of said enriching class like band/orchestra? It would definitely be the student.
Another thing to take into consideration is that all children are not test takers. Some students are better at showing knowledge of something through projects, or oral presentation, not with pencil and paper tests. Some students who have the knowledge base and understanding of the presented material "freeze up" when that paper is put in front of them, but they've shown the teacher they do/did understand the material covered, but they show(ed) it in ways other than on written tests. This is where reliance on the teacher's educational judgment has to be considered as he/she is closer to said student than anyone at that particular time.
If schools continue to use these "same test for all" standardized tests, virtually saying that all students learn the same, as measurements of students' success and evaluations for educators, it will continue to be a way of saying that all students are the same. It would be just like saying all mechanics, carpenters, electricians, brick layers and surgeons have the same abilities, so I guess it would be okay to consult your auto mechanic regarding that life-saving surgical procedure you'll be needing.