I read and listened to President Obama’s speech to the Urban League defending RTTT. “Part of (RTTT opposition), I believe, reflects a general resistance to change. We get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn’t good. We make excuses for why things have to be the way they are. I have some grave misgivings about RTTT. That being said, when President Obama talks about a general resistance to change and being comfortable with the status quo, he is practically quoting from any Psychology 101 textbook. People do resist change and cling to the status quo, and surely some of those people are teachers. By no means is he indicting all teachers who oppose RTTT. There are legitimate criticisms. What concerns me is that Mr. Duncan, and by extension, the administration, seems to give lip service to listening to teachers, but teachers report that they do not feel heard, never mind agreed with.

So I am 110 percent behind our teachers. But all I’m asking in return — as a President, as a parent, and as a citizen — is some measure of accountability. So even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we’ve got to make sure we’re seeing results in the classroom. If we’re not seeing results in the classroom, then let’s work with teachers to help them become more effective. Accountability is always a reliable hot button. What happens OUTSIDE of school has a far more pervasive influence on preparation, willingness and academic success than what happens INSIDE the classroom. IF we don’t address failure at the root, we’re just playing politics and avoiding the really hard conversations. From DDKona: We just don’t agree with his administration’s definitions of these ideas. Hold me accountable for planning and implementing lessons that engage students at their different levels. Hold me accountable for what I do as a professional.

But the minute you define accountability as how my students do on a standardized test, that is the minute you ignite my opposition. From MarkAHarris: What I find comical is that people love using the word “accountability” with teaching. Yet, no one uses it the way it should be: you hold teachers responsible for what they do. Testing does not do this. From CEB: (Obama) dismisses legitimate concerns about his administration’s agenda as resistance to change or defense of the status quo. He is so insultingly wrong. Critics of RttT want to improve education just as much or more as he and the tycoons who pull Duncan’s strings. When we talk about testing, parents worry that it means more teaching to the test. Some worry that tests are culturally biased. Teachers worry that they’ll be evaluated solely on the basis of a single standardized test. Everybody thinks that’s unfair. But that’s not what Race to the Top is about. What Race to the Top says is, there’s nothing wrong with testing — we just need better tests applied in a way that helps teachers and students, instead of stifling what teachers and students do in the classroom.

Tests that don’t dictate what’s taught, but tell us what has been learned. Tests that measure how well our children are mastering essential skills and answering complex questions. And tests that track how well our students are growing academically, so we can catch when they’re falling behind and help them before they just get passed along. I am pretty sure that if testing showed that American students were actually outperforming the world, no one would object to testing. A major impetus to RTTT is the poor comparative performance of American students. If students master what I teach as demonstrated by, AMONG OTHER MEASURES, the test scores on tests I write, then I am teaching successfully even in the face of outside influences I do not control. Of course, that assumes I am not gaming my tests as some teachers have done by handing out “study guides” that are nothing more than the test itself.

There is quite a small range of quality in the standards of different states. Furthermore, regardless of what individual state standards say, most teachers teach the curriculum as expressed by the textbook, not the state standards. Teachers tend to write their lesson plans based on the textbook, and then code those plans to the state standards. Very few teachers start their planning with the state standards, and very few teachers use the textbook as just one resource among many. My high quality lessons have sometimes been criticized as too textbook-independent. Students, parents and administrators do not believe that teachers have their own knowledge apart from the textbook. In Japan, because the national standards drive the curriculum and the textbook material, Japanese teachers do not explicitly teach to the test. Testing and curriculum are automatically aligned. In fact, students’ classroom tests are often written by someone other than their teacher. It works like this: There are six tests per subject in a Japanese academic year. The teachers take turns writing the tests. For example, there are three grades in junior high, so eighteen math tests will be written in an academic year.

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