Throughout my teaching career, one thing has remained constant: what I’m trying to accomplish. Back in the early 1990s there was no focus on test scores, thankfully. My goal back then, as it is now, was for my students to like math more when they complete my class than they did when they began the class. This is something that is tough to quantify, and it is something that, if I accomplish it, will often, but not always, result in improved test scores since when students like math they will more likely want to spend time studying it outside of class.
In 2008, TFA celebrity and StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee had this to say in an influential TIME magazine feature:
“The thing that kills me about education is that it’s so touchy-feely,” she tells me one afternoon in her office. Then she raises her chin and does what I come to recognize as her standard imitation of people she doesn’t respect…. “People say, ‘Well, you know, test scores don’t take into account creativity and the love of learning,’” she says with a drippy, grating voice, lowering her eyelids halfway. Then she snaps back to herself. “I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t give a crap.’ Don’t get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”
Over the years TFA has become all about ‘data’ and TFA alumni became education ‘reform’ leaders who also stressed the importance of ‘outcomes’ like test scores and test score ‘gains.’ So I was pleased to see in a recent Pass The Chalk post where ‘reform’ hero, TFA board member, and Grammy award winning singer John Legend interviewed a 2012 TFA corps member, John Choi, who has just completed his first year.
Here is a quote from Mr. Choi:
“My vision has come a long way from just focusing on data. My number one goal is to inspire students to want to learn the material. Everything else just follows from that. At the end of the year it doesn’t matter what their scores are—but if I can see passion in the subject I would have succeeded in the classroom.”
Good for Mr. Choi. I hope we hear more like this from TFA.