Thanks to Chris Queally for a wonderful April 7 Maine Voices column outlining the pitfalls that abound when attempting to pin teacher evaluations to students’ performance.

There have been a host of calls to enact this form of teacher assessment from a business-minded population that imagines education to be like running a factory or a communications company. What there has not been, until now, is a voice of reason and experience able to point out why being a teacher is not like operating machinery or creating software.

There is certainly a need to critically evaluate every teacher’s performance in order to recognize those who are gifted educators, to help those willing to improve to do so, and to, at times, help move out those whose energies might be better employed elsewhere.

What we cannot afford is to so limit the scope of teacher assessment that we produce educators whose only desire will be to “teach to the test” and ignore the multitude of other responsibilities we have taken on to facilitate the growth of the whole child.

I hope that Queally’s retirement plans do not preclude becoming a more integral part of this process. Such a clear voice needs to be heard regularly in the years ahead.

Joseph E. Charnley

Arundel

 

 

It sounds simple: If a teacher is good, her students will learn. If we measure how much a student learns, we can evaluate the teacher.

However, some students need to learn how to sit at circle time or follow classroom routines. Some students need to learn how to manage their behaviors in order to begin learning.

Some children arrive at school without pre-academic skills, or with significant learning challenges, and take longer to learn the curriculum than others in their class.

For many students, particularly those in special education or in early elementary classrooms, the content and pace at which they learn is vastly different from other students.

As teachers, we can and should be using assessments to inform and improve our instruction. But to link teacher evaluations with student achievement is a drastic oversimplification. There are a variety of factors that impact a student’s ability to learn.

Learning does not exist solely from September to June. Nor does it exist solely between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. A first-grade teacher may lay the foundation for learning, but the results may not be seen until second grade. One educator may teach a child the behavioral skills needed so the next educator can teach academic skills.

I agree with the premise that good teaching results in student learning. But learning is not necessarily uniform. The content and pace varies. The focus on social or behavioral goals may outweigh the need for academic instruction.

We cannot oversimplify the variety of factors that impact a child’s ability to learn. We cannot simply look at student progress to measure the worth and value of a teacher.

Julie Saxe

Portland

Obama falls short on mound and in excluding fans on visit

 

Play ball! Or not, as the case may be. There are some interesting parallels between Barack Obama’s inability to govern properly, and his sissified attempt to throw a baseball at the Washington Nationals season opener the other day.

First, his attempted throw was laughable. Very high, like he has admitted being in his younger days, and wide to the left, like his politics. My daughter could do better.

Second, just like the vast majority of Americans, who were decidedly against his disastrous 2,700-plus page, wholesale giveaway, load of you-know-what health care bill, a huge majority of fans in attendance resoundingly booed the “messiah” as he strode to the pitcher’s mound. Rightly so, it would seem.

As much as most of us want to savor each spring and summer moment, we can’t wait until November. Not only for another Red Sox World Series win, but also for a chance to take back this country through the ballot box, and rectify at least some of the damage that this so-called leader has caused us.

Now we hear that Obama, will not use nuclear weapons against those terrorist regimes who would do us harm with biological or chemical weapons. How nice. What’s next? Maybe he’ll invite them over for a beer with Professor Gates.

Our enemies think he’s a joke. Like I said, he leads like he throws.

Not very well.

Dennis Gervais

Portland

 

 

I and about a thousand other people did not get to hear the president speak on April Fools’ Day. We followed all the rules: stood in line for two hours in the rain on March 31 to get the tickets; stood in line in the hot sun on April 1 to get through the door.

Unfortunately, hundreds of people wearing jackets and/or heels had been given “special” blue tickets (ours were white) at the last minute. I am assuming none of them stood in line the day before. They came streaming in and jumped the line right at 1:30 p.m. on April 1, leaving the rest of us to stand, incredulous, in a line that snaked for several blocks in the hot sun. Our line did not move for another hour. At 3:25 Mr. Obama arrived and they shut the doors.

I was almost inspired to join the tea party protesters, especially since their ranks were a little thin compared to the thousands of us. Don’t they stand for equality over special favors?

I was especially saddened as a young black junior high kid who had been in line with me in the rain was shut out, too. His mom got in, but he ran back home because he had left his brother’s ticket at home and when he got back we were all behind the roped-off barrier.

Obama gave his speech while we waited outside. No one told us he had arrived, but one of the people in line got the speech on his cell phone so we knew it had begun without us and we all left, dejected.

As one person in line suggested, we were all April fools.

Kathleen Fox

Tenants Harbor