To the Editor:
Reading Linda Darling-Hammond’s Commentary (“Value-Added Teacher Evaluation—The Harm Behind the Hype,” March 14, 2012) brought to mind an annual ritual back in the 1970s in PS 95 in Queens, N.Y. Each spring, when scores were released, the principal would march through the morning lineup and hand a rose to the teachers who had brought in the highest test scores. Invariably, the rose would go to teachers who taught the top-performing students.
In those years, I taught the bilingual class. It contained earthquake victims from Guatemala, refugees from El Salvador, and survivors of the Cuban flotilla. I taught my children in English and Spanish, worked hard, and never won the rose.
It is amazing to me now that politicians and superintendents plan to hinge teacher evaluations on test scores. Surely they are aware of how school and classroom populations can be gerrymandered to achieve any range of scores imaginable. Teachers do not pick their students. What about magnet schools that select and de-select children? What about busing English-language learners or students with disabilities into the schools that have programs for them? Are only certain schools accountable for the scores of traditionally low-performing children? Why are principals who accept low-performing children willingly, and the teachers who work to improve their learning, judged less successful than those in other schools?
After 37 years in three major urban school systems replete with “low-performing” children, schools, and teachers, I have experienced firsthand the prejudice of those who would issue poor performance reviews to teachers and principals who represent children who struggle to learn English while living with the effects of extreme and violent poverty. And, I have lived long enough to be considered an exemplary educator.
But, given the kinds of schools and neighborhoods where I have chosen to spend my career, and in spite of the many children who have come back to show me their college diplomas, I never won the rose.
Ann Evans de Bernard
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2012 edition of Education Week as Student Performance Varies By Classroom, School