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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Columns

Teacher rankings are a bad policy


Before the ball gets rolling in Texas, it might help to address New York City’s new teacher rankings for perspective.

Ignoring that the idea of such a system has been implemented in multiple science fictions films, that it has concurrently failed in said science fiction films and that standard administrations attempt to cram some of the state’s most important workers into a cardboard box, you’ve got a tough situation at hand.

So how would one go about determining what separates an “exemplary teacher” from his or her “halfway-decent-most-of-the-time” counterparts in a state with more than 600,000 of them? Here’s a hint: You can’t. Without a universal agreement as to what “good” is, there won’t be any “good” teachers. It’s another bullet on the list of things that will never come to fruition. The difference between your “good” and that of your neighbors’ could be insignificant in some ways but could also be monumental in others. The absence of a multi-lateral “thumbs up” is the reason that so many different religions, diets and marriage practices exist.

There simply aren’t any assurances that standards are the same. And that’s not to say you can’t try, but even the obvious indicators, from the fruit on the edge of their desk to whatever arithmetic is being thrown around in the elementary school, hold only so much weight in some circles, while they are completely disregarded in others.

But for the sake of the argument, let’s say that a standard could actually be agreed upon. Even if the circumstances were in place to qualify a standard code of merit, how could it be done objectively? What would become of the teacher whose students pray for plague outbreaks, but consistently make high marks? Or the instructor who struggles to attain the results, but consistently concludes the year by instilling a love for learning in their students?

Anyone who’s been hostage to the public education system knows that it’s a two-way affair. No matter how much “pull” is provided on one end, the other has to pay its dues as well. There’s a goal established at the beginning of the year, along with an open promise from the instructor, that he or she will reach if the students do “their part,” as well.

This is a relationship that’s molded on a case-by-case basis, but one whose factors remain the same — none of these can be measured.

You can’t have a widespread ranking system without a widespread acknowledgement. You can’t have a widespread acknowledgement without a widespread consensus. And if the New York City Department of Education believes that they can acquire even a semi-unanimous agreement on the plight of the Native Americans, the proper use of a semi-colon or the umpteenth variable of pi, hats off to them. Bravo.

But for the rest of the country, correlated teacher rankings will only remain an idea and a half-fleshed one at best.

Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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