I had a conversation with a friend yesterday. He asked, "What were your favorite subjects in school?"
I thought for a moment and remembered Miss Ely - 10th grade English. She treated me well. She encouraged me to write. She took time to say hello. She invited me to be a participant in her class. I can still remember activities from her class. I did a report on George Washington Carver. I baked peanut butter bread and shared it with the class during my oral report.
Was it English that I liked or did I like English because of Miss Ely?
I remembered Mr. Robbins - 6th grade. He treated me well. He made me feel secure at an insecure time in my life. He took time to sit with me, talk with me, and make me feel important. He did not have to do that - but he did.
Was it 6th grade that I liked or did I like 6th grade because of Mr. Robbins?
I remembered Coach Braig - two years of Latin. He was one of the cool teachers in our school. I was one of the uncool kids in our school. He talked to me like I was important. He said hello to me in the hall. He called me by name. I could always count on Coach Braig to make my day brighter and to make me walk a little taller.
Was it Latin that I liked or did I like Latin because of Coach Braig?
We hear a lot lately about "value-added" assessment. There is a push to make sure that teachers are helping students learn. Can the impact of Miss Ely and Mr. Robbins and Coach Braig be measured by the grades I earned in their classrooms or by the test scores I received in school?
I am sure there was a connection. I wanted to do well in those classes because I did not want to disappoint those teachers.
But a large part of the impact those teachers had on my life cannot be measured by a grade or a test score.
I am part of the educational establishment. I am charged with making sure that every student in my district learns. I want the teachers in my district to be able to demonstrate that the students in their classroom are learning. Ultimately teacher and administrator evaluations will be connected to student performance. My evaluation will be connected to student performance.
Yet, there is a part of me that understands that there is more to an education than grades and test scores. Some of what Miss Ely, Mr. Robbins, and Coach Braig taught me cannot be measured, graded, or examined on a spreadsheet. In fact, I could argue, that the most important part of who I am is connected in some profound way to things that cannot be measured from a test score.
As we proceed down the path of holding teachers and administrators accountable for student performance I ask that we pause and consider how we can measure the tremendous impact teachers have on the important things that cannot be accounted for on a scantron test sheet. I ask that we take the time to understand that measuring the things we can see and count needs to be complemented with an awareness that there is more to a teacher than just student grades and test scores.