Public education reform has been a hot-button topic at both the state and federal levels for several years. When the Bush Administration passed No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the plan called for every student in every public school achieving specific learning goals by 2014.
Since the passage of NCLB, we have seen an increase in standardized and high-stakes tests across the nation and here in Tennessee, because many reformers believe the only way to measure student achievement is through testing.
Sometimes we get so focused on test scores we fail to see some very important truths:
—Education changes the quality of life for every student and for the communities in which they live.
—Public schools educate all students regardless of their ability, background, race, color or creed. No student enters a teacher’s class with the identical knowledge and skills as another child. Teachers make every effort to move students from where they are to where they need to be academically.
—All children are products of the environments to which they are exposed. School is just one of those environments.
—Teachers teach the whole child, working to meet each child’s physical, emotional and academic needs and increasing the chances for success. Some children come to school with unique challenges such as hunger, homelessness, abuse, or illness. A teacher’s duty is to treat each child with compassion and understanding.
—Teachers support all students in achieving success.
Great teachers also teach resiliency — how to survive in the real world. These teachers give their students the ability to pick themselves up and try again after a failure, to move past obstacles that could thwart success.
None of these factors can be measured by a standardized test. What’s more, the impact a teacher has on a child isn’t always immediate. It can often take years for the true impact of a single teacher can be evidenced. If we want true reform and change in public education, we must focus our efforts on supporting, developing, and praising teachers. They are the architects of our future.
National Teacher Appreciation Week was May 5-11.
If you missed it, I encourage every parent, legislator, school board member, business owner and community member to visit a teacher’s classroom to see the wonder and excitement — the magic — that occurs every day in our great public schools. I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t welcome the opportunity to share his or her passion for education with others.
Please join me in thanking a local teacher. Commend them for the honorable and important work they do.
—By GERA SUMMERFORD (Gera Summerford is a high school math teacher in Sevier County who currently serves as president of the Tennessee Education Association. TEA is the state’s largest professional organization representing over 46,000 elementary and secondary teachers, school administrators, education support professionals, higher education faculty, and students preparing to become teachers.)