It is the issue which won't go away; indeed, we have here spoken of it several times ourselves. We are talking about, again, the way in which we measure teacher performance.
There was a while back a voluntary survey conducted by the Detroit Free Press which has concluded that 30%, or just about 1 in 3, Michigan teachers have felt pressure to cheat. A few have even admitted altering grades.
No one condones cheating. Yet that does not mean that we ought not have a certain sympathy for those of us caught in difficult, if not dire, situations. This is specially true when the rational argument can be made that they are being judged under circumstances over which they have little, if any, control. Educators have little control over who ends up in their classrooms. They have even less say, if any at all, in the home and personal lives of their students.
Claiming that a good teacher can teach anybody is nothing more than an inane flippancy. It simply ignores reality. Not everyone can learn nor is everyone willing to learn, and such obstacles are not easily overcome. Pressuring teachers to change realities which they cannot is bound to invite bending rules among the less stout of heart. Yet with our insistence on finding or developing some sort of almost scientific manner upon which to grade our instructors, methods which basically ignore the obviously non-scientific factors listed here and elsewhere, there seems no leeway except to call teachers on the carpet over matters they cannot affect. That is simply absurd.
There seems two ways ultimately to approach the problem. One is to back off the teachers who work in the tougher areas which will, no offense intended but said only to reflect reality, produce a talent pool of lower ability. The other, and this will seem ironic, reduce the amount of public support for education. Yes, we mean cut funding. Even further, perhaps, than it has been. Those who can learn will learn with less cash being spent on them. Those who can't or won't learn won't be helped either way.
But the trouble with each approach lies in that fact that conservatives, rightly enough, so far as it goes, want an idea about return on investment. They want to measure, as quantifiably as they can, whether the money spent is well spent. This ignores that there are areas where the ROI simply isn't going to be good no matter what. Liberals, being liberal, simply want to throw more money at the schools. They forget that continuing to do what doesn't work will not make it work, and the amount of money spent means nothing in that light.
Neither of these ideas will come to life. And the only ones who will be hurt in the meantime are the ones caught in the middle of the game: the teachers.