An open letter to WBEZ: Linda Lutton.

18 Sep

(Update. Linda and I exchanged emails and she called me out. Turns out, she was right and I was wrong. Linda did not say what I accuse her of about evaluation and student learning. In fact, she gave a measured response. The source of the mistake was my wife, who is mortified. She must have misheard, through the din of taking care of our two daughters, and then passed on that mistake to me. Beth’s rarely wrong about these sort of things, so I believed her.

I’m leaving the letter up because, A. I believe in leaving a record of one’s mistakes, even online, for discussion and so on; and B. I think the issues at play, and the criticism leveled at WBEZ in general—if not Linda Lutton specifically—are legitimate. She did a good job, though, calling attention to the biggest issue of all, school closings. It’s the best coverage WBEZ has given to the strike. And even though the labor specialist is a naive dude, the story is worth listening to. You can listen to it here.)

Hi, Linda.

Listen, you really misrepresented the teachers’ position on evaluations the other day. Your words, if I remember correctly, were “teachers don’t want to be evaluated on whether their students learn.” This is an egregious misrepresentation. We want to be evaluated and we want to do good work teaching. We want results in our students, too. More than you or people outside the field. There’s nothing worse than teaching a unit then seeing that a student or students didn’t learn what you wanted. It’s heartbreaking. What we object to is having 45 percent of our evaluation be based on standardized test scores. First, most teachers are philosophically opposed to the whole standardized testing structure. Like others, I believe that the testing is a big part of the problem. We lose weeks to various tests that COULD BE SPENT ACTUALLY TEACHING. Second, these tests are not foolproof, and many data-crunchers have come to the conclusion that the flaws in some of these tests render the results (almost) useless. Third, so much of a student’s academic success depends on factors outside the school. To ignore this fact is to transfer the problems of poverty—which besiege much of our country’s youth, and are in part perpetuated through terrible tax and economic policies—onto the school system that cannot redress decades of racism and so on in six or seven hours a day.
We believe, or the bulk of us do, that our cities, towns, villages, political bodies don’t want to spend the money and change some of the absurd policies that keep people in poverty. Instead, blame is placed almost solely on the teachers. This is misguided and wrong, and you’re contributing to the (mis)perception problem.
Your language made it seem like we are being petulant, that we just don’t want to have anyone “judge” us. We’re not children or sullen teenagers who can’t handle a little criticism. We’re professionals, dammit. We want to be evaluated. We want to do good work. We just refuse to be evaluated, to such a high degree, by a tool we don’t think works and don’t have faith in.
P.S. I changed my mind. This is an open letter after all.

One Response to “An open letter to WBEZ: Linda Lutton.”

  1. keithsterlingcox September 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Point number 3 is an important one, and I don’t ever hear people talking about it.

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