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Shame on the Times

I’m not going to get into it too much, because it angers me beyond measure. The value-added scores are designed to punish those who teach ELL students. The fact that a teacher committed suicide as a result of the scores (though admittedly this cannot be proven yet) suggests that the report is beyond simply irresponsible and into a realm that is dangerous.

If a newspaper had ranked a soldier based upon the percentage of “targets” he hit and then a soldier committed suicide, Fox News would be ranting about how unpatriotic it is to insult public servants who are giving it their best and fighting on the front lines for our freedom.  I guess you’re only heroic if you drive a tank and not if you help children learn how to read.

Regardless of whether the cause of death had anything to do with The Times, the reality is this: shaming teachers publicly does nothing to improve education.

On a public radio discussion board, I read people who compared this to the Enron crook who took his life. Wrong. This was a man who devoted his life to teaching and who was publicly shamed when his students failed on a flawed test.

How did we become the scapegoats?

News flash: When the economy was going strong, teachers didn’t get pay raises. We didn’t get second homes. We didn’t get fat 401k’s. We also weren’t publicly shamed, though we were often privately mocked. People saw teachers as crazy for doing something that was pretty selfless for such little money. And maybe we were.  And are.  But here’s the thing:  I’ve never seen our profession so publicly demonized in my life.

When the economy collapsed we took pay cuts and furlough days.  We listened as people griped about how unfair it was for those with government jobs who had such great security. Again, we sat on our hands, because, in general, we tend to enjoy the teaching gig.

Now I watch as Wall Street crooks run for Congress and a man who is supposedly progressive blames teachers for the faults of the broken economy. Somehow it was my fault that the economy collapsed. It must have been the lessons on the Mexican-American War or perhaps the day I was volunteering before school to teach blending to an eighth grader who couldn’t read because he had spent most of his years watching younger siblings rather than attending schools.

The LA Times like all other newspapers are slowly losing their subscribers. In another decade or two they’ll hopefully be gone entirely. Let me be the first to smile and say “good riddance, Times, you’re responsible for the death of a decent teacher. Let’s hope your demise is full of shame.”


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


4 thoughts on “Shame on the Times

  1. Personally I think that something should be done sooner. I don’t see why there isn’t a public inquiry being held into this man’s death, or if there is one it should be publicized better. I assure you that there WOULD be a hue and an outcry if this happened in Canada, and that the newspaper responsible would feel more than some shame for their actions.

    Posted by dwees | September 29, 2010, 11:34 pm
  2. Mainstream media continues its descent into partisanship, not that new journalism or citizen journalism is unbiased.

    There is nothing about standardized testing, as it is, that helps our shared enterprise of graduating an educated citizenry. It would be one thing if, as presented in this School Finance 101 post, we were saying that anything at all would be better than testing. However, we want authenticity in students’ work, meaning in their learning, and excellence in their products. Where are the articles and programs about the real, but not insurmountable, obstacles to assessing student work as primary evidence of growth and learning? Where is any acknowledgement that there has existed since the beginning of human history in every discipline alternative representations of knowledge apart from the bubble, let alone reading and writing?

    Without knowing why Rigoberto Ruelas committed suicide, I, respectfully, offer condolences to those who feel his loss most keenly. His loss is magnified in scale by their familiarity with him, his life, and his work.

    With less comportment, I say, Grow the hell up, Media. The purpose of a free media is to research and present the brutal facts and educate the public so that citizens can exercise their democratic rights. You’re acting like the third child in an unsure friendship, picking sides and ganging up on whomever seems weakest. It’s unbecoming. It’s petulant. It’s bratty. Stop trying to friend #edreform. Underneath that whiff of monied cologne is the same stink of politics that’s kept our country schooling by fear since Sputnik.

    Consider the last few seasons of The Wire before you write on education again.

    Schools have deeply rooted systems problems of which testing is a symptom. Mainstream media on education is rapidly becoming another symptom of its problems, rather than a treatment.

    With diminishing regards,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 1, 2010, 6:25 am
  3. It saddens me how easily this teachers contribution to his students was dismissed by his test score results. I’ve worked with homeless children, English language learners, those in juvenile detention centers, and children of inner city schools and know that it isn’t about the score. Many come with real problems and as human beings it is difficult to ignore these problems. I used to do creative writing programs with many schools and the horrors the students wrote about made me cry daily. Many children had to raise themselves and their parents. Many had to deal with whether to join their older siblings gang or not. Many dealt with abusive parents. School was a place for them to get away. In every school I conducted these programs at there was at least one teacher who really cared about the students. They would stay after school to speak to the children. They would take them to practices, drop them off at home, or help tutor them. They would lend them a listening ear. Standardized test scores don’t access this in a teacher. In a child’s world this matters more than whether the teacher got them to pass a bubble test. It saddens me that the Times named the teachers and told them they were basically bad teachers. It is a shame the reporters didn’t show an ounce of humanity to these teachers that show humanity to kids who usually don’t get that in their lives.

    Posted by Shelly Sanchez Terrell | October 5, 2010, 11:22 pm


  1. Pingback: Bad Teachers, Scapegoats, and Halting Education Transformation « Cooperative Catalyst - October 5, 2010

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