New Slide: Walking the Moral Tightrope

5 comments

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Matt wrote:
    Accountability, even to an imperfect assessment, has caused schools to invest resources in under-served areas that have been highlighted by achievement gaps.
    The assessments used to measure our accountability can be made better. We teachers can make that happen, even within the current system. It sure isn’t going to come from outside of our profession.
    This is where we both agree AND disagree, Matt!
    Standardized testing programs were a much needed first step towards changing our schools—and they were a reaction to the inability/unwillingness of our own profession to monitor our work.
    That should embarrass education in general.
    The fact that we went for so long without thinking about student learning as an outcome that we are responsible for producing is almost hard to believe.
    But I’m not sure that teachers can change things on their own. We just don’t have the kinds of organizational power that it takes to redesign systems of assessment.
    And as far as taking control of our own classrooms and driving change from the ground up, that would be ideal, but it’s also incredibly difficult when you’re working in buildings where supervisors monitor the implementation of scripted curricula and judge their teachers against nothing other than scores on the simplistic tests we’re already using.
    That’s the moral tightrope that I’m talking about—-I know that I CAN create more responsible systems of assessment.
    But that takes time, energy and a willingness to take real professional risks—in the form of standing up to supervisors—that I don’t have.
    Does this make sense?
    Bill

  2. Matt

    It makes perfect sense. But wasn’t there an overemphasis on rote memorization of facts and an underemphasis on those skills before NCLB? I don’t think the conveniently sliding individual state-sponsored measurements of proficiency are the ultimate answer. (Which is where I agree with your sentiment about simplistic accountability models.) I do know that ten years ago I didn’t hear of any literacy specialists working above K-5 to help struggling readers. Ten years ago, reading instruction typically stopped at sixth grade and now I’m seeing literacy instruction (along with literature instruction) pushing as high as 11th grade. I’ve worked in education too long to believe that every teacher enters the profession with much of a clue as to what students really need – and I’ve seen many well-intentioned teachers that cared deeply about their students and were dead wrong about what they “knew” the students needed.
    Accountability, even to an imperfect assessment, has caused schools to invest resources in under-served areas that have been highlighted by achievement gaps.
    The assessments used to measure our accountability can be made better. We teachers can make that happen, even within the current system. It sure isn’t going to come from outside of our profession.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Matt asked:
    Is it balancing between immoral (simplistic accountability) and moral (teaching what ‘we’ know they need)? Or is either extreme an immoral stance – and the balance between the two being the most moral, and difficult, act?
    This is a legitimate question, Matt. All I know is that for about the past ten years, we’ve had nothing but simplistic accountability models based on nothing more than standardized testing scores.
    That results in an overemphasis on rote memorization of facts and an underemphasis on the kinds of skills—-problem solving, creativity, innovation, information management, collaboration, persuasion—-that businesses are constantly saying they expect their employees to have in order to succeed in the 21st Century workplace.
    Does that make sense?
    Bill

  4. Matt

    How do you measure whether and to what extent a teacher (or school, or curriculum, or university teacher-training program) has faulty knowledge about “the kinds of lessons” the student needs?
    Please do not intrepret this question as promoting “simplistic accountability models.” The slide frames this as a moral balancing issue. Is it balancing between immoral (simplistic accountability) and moral (teaching what ‘we’ know they need)? Or is either extreme an immoral stance – and the balance between the two being the most moral, and difficult, act?

  5. Jamie

    I am a student teacher, currently enrolled in a teacher education program. Just entering the world of education I am constantly trying to understand and balance academic standards, student culture, teacher culture as well as my position amongst all these variables. I am learning that teaching is a lot more than understanding how to properly create a unit map; it contains so many other layers, layers that no teaching program could ever prepare you for.
    The idea that we as teachers walk amongst a moral tightrope is incredibly relevant to my experience entering the world of education. In my program, I have been lucky enough to be able to experience two different schools, one public and one private. The difference between these two schools is not as great as one would think; the main difference I have noticed is that the education at this particular private school allows teachers the freedom to educate students without walls; issues are examined holistically. This leads back to the quote that you have posted, if teachers are confined to walking on the moral tightrope how will students ever have the chance to see both sides of an issue and understand why?