Judging teachers by their students' test scores, however, shows a misunderstanding of metrics.
In our culture of binary thinking ("you're either with us or against us"), useful conversation has gone the way of the Princess telephone. Oh, we can namber on about the Super Bowl, the don't-call-it-swine flu, and stocks we don't own, but any discussion involving thought violates the binary social code.
When practicing medicine, docs and nurses knew who the good ones were ("I would send my mother to her"), and who to avoid ("I wouldn't send my dog to him). In between lies a huge class of decent docs doing a reasonable job in a very difficult profession. We had boards to pass, but they were a minor (if expensive) inconvenience that did not reflect our clinical abilities.
Here's a quote from Wendell Berry, a farmer and a writer--it is a long one in our world of sound bites and binary battles:
The fact is that farming is not a laboratory science, but a science of practice. It would be, I think, a good deal more accurate to call it an art, for it grows not only out of factual knowledge, but out of cultural tradition; it is learned not only by precept but by example, by apprenticeship; and it requires not merely a competent knowledge of its facts and processes, but also a complex set of attitudes, a certain culturally evolved stance, in the face of the unexpected and the unknown. That is to say, it requires style in the highest and richest sense of that term.from "Discipline and Hope,"
A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural
Change "farming" to "teaching" and read it again.
A farm today is judged by its output, its profit margin. Farming has become industrialized for a few good reasons, and a few bad ones. If you want to eat a good apple, a good tomato, a good eggplant, you'd best find a farmer who has abandoned industrial farming (and a few exist), or grow it yourself.
Do we want industrialized teaching, measured by tests that quantify a child's factual knowledge without assessing her lifetime value as a citizen in our American experiment? Do we want to judge teachers by their ability to produce such a child?
Historically, public education's priority has been to create a functioning citizenry; the current trend is to produce careerists. The two have critical, but subtle, distinctions. A citizenry that cannot grasp subtle but critical distinctions will ultimately fail as a republic.
Or you can take the easy way out--call me a union-bashing right-wing nut job, or call me a namby-pamby anti-capitalist left-wing flake. It's becoming the American Way.
I may have made up the word namber.