This article- from the New York Times series "Teachers are Crazy Lazy" - irritated me.
I mean, there are some interesting cultural shifts represented within it, I think. For instance, when I was in school, Physical Education and Art were subjects in which every student could obtain a passing grade, but not every student could excel. Teachers, students, and families alike assumed that some children had talent in these areas and others did not; a talented student could do very well, but a child without these gifts would, even with effort, show at best an average performance.
If we are now testing these subjects with an eye to assessing teachers, apparently we now believe that all children can excel in these areas, and that natural talent is not important (or at least not necessary). I don't know that this is positive or negative, but I think it is something to talk about.
Everything else about the article led to teeth-grinding. Someone neglected to tell the Times that these assessments are already being piloted. Despite hinting at portfolios and research papers, the reality is that these will be computer-based assessments. Portfolios and research papers would be an expensive endeavor to grade, and administering such tests to literally thousands of students twice annually would be impossible (not to mention, what do you do with kids who just don't submit the essay? Is that the teacher's fault? Eugh, I can just imagine the rhetoric of HIGH EXPECTATIONS and whatnot).
I am appalled by the idea of these assessments not because I am afraid to be evaluated. I am appalled by these assessments because I believe that any computer-based assessment in Kindergarten means more screen time and less interaction. It means more individual drill and less collaboration. It means more teacher talk and less child discussion. It means less inquiry and more direct instruction. It means (even less) play and hands-on learning and (even more) pen and pencil work.
I do not believe that children learn best from these methods, and I know they don't instill curiosity, creativity, and a love of learning. But apparently these things are less important than rooting out those lazy, lazy teachers.
Indeed, if we have to destroy education to find and fire those teachers...well, there's always collateral damage. That damage will be concentrated in schools not frequented by the children of Times reporters, certainly.