Educational Responsibility

aschackettI remember when I was in the eighth grade and I came home with a report card that wasn’t as good as it could have been. My grades had dropped in almost every class and comments showed that I wasn’t putting in enough effort. My father handed me the report card and waited for an explanation.

My teachers don’t like me. I don’t like my teachers. The work is too hard. The work is too easy. I’m bored. All these excuses and more went through my head but I didn’t say any of them because the truth was that my grades went down because I didn’t work as hard as I should have.

Many of today’s students and parents have a much different view of educational responsibility. If grades fall it is no longer the students’ responsibility, it is the teacher’s. Homework, classwork, taking notes, and participation are activities that a student can choose to do but their grade and learning are based on what the teacher has done, or not none.

I was talking to a teacher friend of mine and he used the analogy; you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. It is not the teacher’s fault if the students won’t do the work given to them. If a student doesn’t study for a test, the teacher has failed that student. If a student doesn’t do their homework, the teacher has failed that student. If a student doesn’t pay attention in class, the teacher has failed that student. In fact the students themselves bear little responsibility for their education at all.

Common Core testing has taken this to a whole new level by evaluating teachers on the scores of their students and the students in their schools. Economic and behavioral factors are not used in this evaluation and student interest isn’t considered either. Teachers are told the results of the test and they are evaluated by these results.

No one is told how the test is scored. No one is told what questions were correct and which ones were wrong. No one is given a rubric on what they will be evaluated on. In education these are basic things for any graded assignment or test. The students are given a score for how well they did and then their teacher is given a score for how well the class or school did. No one will ever see the test, the questions or the evaluative process again.

My father knew why my grades dropped, and they improved by the next report card not because the teacher got better but because I stopped fooling around, did my work, and studied for the tests. I was also grounded for four months.