My job title is “teacher.” It is not “grader” or “assessor” or “guarantor.” It is simply “teacher.”

Teaching is an act of faith just like having a baby, joining the army, planting wheat, starting a business, getting married, etc.

I cannot guarantee results. No amount of money and no amount of layered bureaucracy can change that.

I can guarantee that there will be good days and bad days, good lessons and bad lessons, good teachers and bad teachers, good parents and bad parents, etc.

No amount of money and no amount of layered bureaucracy can change that either.

I can guarantee central planning will destroy education as surely as central planning will destroy an economy.

So when some official in your school district talks (yet again!) about some new “standards-based” grading model designed to improve “grading student performance” and “measuring proficiency in meeting learning goals” and “assessing student performance,” you can be sure of one thing: Your school district is third-rate at best.

To improve your school district you must get rid of all officials who talk like this because they simply do not understand what education is all about.

Intangibles

Education is about intangibles such as “a love of learning,” “a thirst for knowledge,” “creative thinking,” “problem solving,” etc. Since these are intangibles they simply cannot be measured.

Any attempt to objectively and scientifically measure education is a lost cause. It is comparable to searching for the Holy Grail or seeking El Dorado or squaring the circle. It simply cannot be done because the desired goal does not exist.

You can argue all you want but take it from me, I have been in education for more than 30 years and I have carefully watched the results of my efforts.

I have observed which students have succeeded in life and which students have failed, and I have found there is zero correlation with “school grades.” Zero.

In fact I personally cannot recall anyone ever asking me (outside of school) what grades I got in school or what my standardized test scores were. People only care about what I know and what I can do now.

Nobody cares about what I knew or what I could do during my school days. We don’t go to school to pass a test. We go to school to get an education. Education means long-term retention of what is taught.

Sabotaging education

This is why a focus on grading student performance actually sabotages education. Students think information only matters if it will be on the test. They think that a number on a piece of paper is what school is all about and promptly lose interest after the test is passed. They forget most of what they learned because they think the testing (not knowledge) is all that matters.

Life is not a game that is reduced to a simple score. Life depends on education, and education simply cannot be reduced to a number on a piece of paper.

“Why not?” you may ask. For this all I can say is “It just can’t.” Education is too complicated in ways that I simply cannot explain or even understand. Just like “squaring the circle.”

“Squaring the circle” refers to measuring the area of a circle. It simply cannot be done precisely as it involves the irrational number called pi.

Three different people can come up with three different answers as to what the area of a circle is depending on how many digits of pi they use.

All three answers are both correct and incorrect since the number pi has no end.

In fact this makes no sense. If you take a loop of string and place it over four pegs to form a square you can measure the exact area of that square.

Take that same loop and form it into a circle. The length of that loop has not changed one bit yet you cannot measure the exact area of the circle.

Nothing has changed except the elimination of corners and yet it changes everything. Don’t waste your time trying to understand it. Just measure the area of the circle to the extent that sort of meets your needs and move on.

So it is with teaching. I look at my students' faces. I ask them a few questions and they ask me some. That is my assessment. We move on.

What I am looking for is student interest. If they find what I am teaching interesting, they pay attention. They remember. They get an education. We move forward.

Knowledge is power

Of course it won’t be perfect. Of course someone somewhere will complain about something I or mystudents did or didn't do. As a teacher I cannot please everybody but that is not why I became a teacher.

I became a teacher I guess because I love power. Knowledge is power. If my students understand the power of knowledge then we have achieved “proficiency in learning goals,” and you can be sure the students are getting a first-rate education in a top-notch school. Simply because the students like learning and the students like school.

Since tests and grades make school boring they completely defeat the intended purpose of public education. And they cost a lot of money. Please think about that. Thank you.

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