In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice.
By Rachel Aviv
Really, the choice is hardly shocking.
This is a story about how a bunch of caring, dedicated teachers resorted to cheating in order to keep their schools intact. The American preoccupation with competition and testing, the notion that every year must be better than the last, and the idea that “big data” can tell you everything you need to know turn good teachers into criminals or push them out altogether.
First No Child Left Behind, and now Race to the Top. And the stick always seems to be bigger than the carrot.
“Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of this hat.”
“AGAIN!? That trick NEVER works.”
Really. It doesn’t. The way to get the best performance out of that mule is NOT a system of rewards underscored with threats of punishment.
It’s really quite simple (though often not cheap). The way to get the best performance is to feed it well and treat it with respect.
In what many Americans would call a socialist move, Finland developed a school system that is now the envy of the world. Their goal was *not* beating everyone else; improving test scores wasn’t even on their radar. Their goal was to provide a good solid education for everyone. By focusing on how to improve learning conditions for the average and struggling students, they ended up improving learning conditions for ALL. Rather than try to motivate teachers through threats, and tests, they decided to trust their teachers and give them more (more money, more qualifications, more time, more help, ….).
Sheesh. Take a lesson America. Get over this ridiculous notion that competition breeds quality – except for the very few at the top, mostly what it breeds is resentment – and, cheating.