Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Much of Teacher’s Role in Learning Is Immeasurable

April 22, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Teaching is a relationship, first among teacher and students, and then among those who surround that primary relationship. Because the most significant aspects of human relationships cannot be quantified, it is disconcerting to read that the Alliance for Excellent Education is proposing that teaching “be defined primarily by the measurable contributions that teachers make to student learning,” according to your article “Test Students to Enrich High School Teaching, Brief Urges” (April 2, 2008). The alliance would include other factors—if, that is, they can be counted with standardized tools.

It is true that some aspects of the teaching-learning relationship can be measured. But as Albert Einstein reportedly said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” In the case of schools today, focusing on the countable will only intensify the damage now caused by high-stakes testing. While the alliance calls for using multiple assessments, those, too, would be standardized. The proposal also supports the latest silver bullet, “value added,” in which “value” is but a multiple-choice test score.

U.S. education is increasingly controlled by standardized testing, from incessant “interim” and “benchmark” testing, to high-stakes graduation tests, to the No Child Left Behind Act. If the Alliance for Excellent Education’s agenda succeeds, that which is immeasurable but profoundly important will continue to disappear from our schools. Testing already sucks the life out of thousands of classrooms, with low-income and minority-group students suffering the most. Ironically, in this intense period of measurement, even gains on standardized exams such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress are slowing.

Public anger over NCLB’s testing regime is rising together with the intensity of testing. The question is whether teachers, parents, students, civil rights and religious groups, and community leaders will be able to halt the drive to reduce schooling to the easily measurable before the educational landscape becomes a desert.

Monty Neill

Deputy Director

National Center for Fair & Open Testing

(FairTest)

Cambridge, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the April 23, 2008 edition of Education Week as Much of Teacher’s Role in Learning Is Immeasurable

Events

Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum What Will It Take for Schools to Get Better?
Find out what educators and leaders can do to incite lasting and productive change that will make a difference in the lives of students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Validated by EdWeek, Not by My Administration
"I feel like public school in America is broken," writes a former teacher in this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Most Americans Support Raising Teacher Pay. But There's a Partisan Rift
Public support for teacher pay raises is at its highest level in at least 15 years, an Education Next survey found.
6 min read
Illustration of woman jumping across piggy banks.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion Searching for Common Ground: Rick and Pedro Go to the Movies
A few education-themed films aptly capture the fact that teachers are people with huge challenges in their lives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession From Our Research Center 'Over It': Most Educators Say They Won't Mask This Fall
But teachers are more likely than administrators to keep masking, EdWeek Research Center survey data show.
7 min read
Image of a face mask on a school notebook.
Steven White/iStock/Getty