ISABEL NUNEZ [email]
Nunez is associate professor at the Center for Policy Studies and Social Justice at Concordia University Chicago. She recently wrote the piece “Standardized Test Scores are Worst Way to Evaluate Teachers,” which states: “The way that CPS [Chicago Public Schools] plans to use test scores in teacher evaluation, referred to as value-added, is so incredibly flawed that almost no one with a knowledge base in this area thinks it’s a good idea. The National Research Council wrote a letter to the Obama administration warning against including value-added in the Race to the Top federal grant program because of a lack of research support. The Educational Testing Service, an organization that stands to benefit tremendously from any expansion of testing, issued a report concluding that value-added is improper test use. These are the people who know the statistics, and none of them thinks the models work. … This is setting teachers up for failure. This will ensure regular turnover, keeping the teaching force young and inexperienced, afraid and compliant. This is only one of many ways that teaching is being turned from a vocation to a job — and a low-paid, temporary one at that.”
Nunez is a member of CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education), which aims to “unite the voices of academics in opposition to the corporate takeover of public education.”
MARC O’SULLIVAN [email]
O’Sullivan teaches math at Von Steuben High School in Chicago. He said today: “This is only the beginning for everyone that has been involved with this strike. We all need to become experts on this document. We must find a way to restore the original threshold needed to strike. We must also regain the right to strike over unfair working conditions and not just ‘economic’ considerations. We must advocate for an elected school board. We must somehow gain political and corporate allies. We must remind middle class people who say things like ‘shoot the teachers!’ that the labor movement and unions are characteristic of democratic societies.
“Most importantly, we must educate with newfound purpose.
“It has been a difficult week to belong to this profession. But struggles alter us. If we face them head on, those internal battles can provide clarity and motivation to push forward and fight for what we believe is most worthwhile. I have learned that any stance is only as strong as the intensity with which it has been questioned. I know, with more conviction than ever before, how imperative it is to provide those I teach with the tools necessary to negotiate the moral and intellectual dilemmas they will face in their lives. I have also experienced the ugliness that ensues when complex issues of importance are reduced to sound bites.
“A few questions to ponder: In what ways did standardized tests prepare you for the job you do today? If the evaluation of teachers is the issue, can there be devised some system that measures integrity? Could that system possibly be used for other professions including those of politics?”