…The first and largest problem is that every educational program we’ve had in place since 2002 — the first year that No Child Left Behind took effect — prioritizes student performance on standardized tests above all else. Test performance is now tied to both school funding, and the evaluation of teachers and administrators. In many cases, there exists no empirical evidence to back up the validity of this approach, yet it’s universally accepted as the way things ought to be.
Imagine, for a moment, that this weren’t education, but any other job. Imagine how you’d feel if you found yourself employed in such a role.
You have, on any given day, a slew of unique problems to tackle. These include how to reach, motivate, and excite the people whose education and performance you’re responsible for. It includes imparting them with skills that will enable them to succeed in the world, which will be vastly different from state-to-state, county-to-county, and even classroom-to-classroom. Gifted students, average students, special needs students, and students with severe disabilities are all often found in the same class, requiring a deft touch to keep everyone motivated and engaged. Moreover, students often come to class with problems that place them at a competitive disadvantage, such as food insecurity, unaddressed physical, dental, and mental health issues, or home life responsibilities that severely curtail their ability to invest in academics.
If your goal was to achieve the greatest learning outcome possible for each of your students, what would you need to be successful? You’d need the freedom to decide what to teach, how to teach it, how to evaluate and assess your students, and how to structure your classroom and curriculum. You’d need the freedom to make individualized plans or separate plans for students who were achieving at different levels. You’d need the resources — financial, time, and support resources — to maximize the return on your efforts. In short, you’d need the same thing that any employee in any role needs: the freedom and flexibility to assess your own situation, and make empowered decisions. …