Teachers are held to unfair standards

With almost a quarter-century of teaching experience in Buffalo Public Schools, it’s with “fear and trembling and a sickness unto death” that I read from Mayor Byron W. Brown that there is “no deficiency whatsoever” in the administration’s approach to public education and his enthusiastic belief in the sweet, sensible assertion that “… you can’t have a great city without great schools,” according to the Nov. 30 News.

True enough that school systems reflect the society they’re a part of, but it would be wrong to fault the mayor for Buffalo’s extensive slum dwellings, high crime rate and lack of employment, especially for city youth. These problems exist in all cities great and not so great.

Why, if the mayor’s office were subjected to the evaluations that teachers now endure, he could be dismissed from City Hall, his staff cut in half and also given the boot. If his constituency didn’t continually get higher scores on standardized tests, he would receive an “inefficient” rating and if he got that two years in a row he could be fired. (This is not to suggest such as urban reform.)

Yet this is what our nation, state and school district gleefully doles out to its teachers with the annual professional performance review requirements of Race to the Top federal legislation. Such punishment to teachers, who have no control over their students’ private lives, so often submerged in high poverty rates, unemployment (the highest predictor of success in school and college is having professional parents) and student apathy are deeply social deficiencies way out of the reach of even the best educator’s efforts. Yet I’m fortunate to know so many who still reach out every day.

Great cities do require courageous leadership in public education and today that means going against the federally mandated attacks on public educators, in the guise of reform, and giving all children the highest quality of learning our human experience has to offer. Standardized test scores don’t quite fit that bill.

Ray Peterson