Teacher Mallory Wall wrote a highly emotional letter that was printed in the March 8th Lake Charles paper. It was a loosely-organized indictment of the teaching profession, which seems odd coming from a teacher. (A link to the letter is below.)
It’s not just the letter’s poor logic that irritates; it’s the absence of logic entirely that offends.
Wall relayed an emotional story about a bright potential college student “full of hope and determination” from a rural parish. Somehow this female valedictorian could only score a 13 on her ACT, so she was appealing to still earn TOPS.
According to Wall, the student’s words were “full of emotion.” So were Wall’s. Too bad she substituted emotion for logic, for her words lacked a coherent train of thought.
Wall took this anecdotal story and then linked it with gossamer threads to blame the entire Louisiana public education system. Somehow this student’s situation gave Wall the right to accuse all teachers—nay, the entire state—of mass negligence: “Her teachers have failed her. Her state has failed her. We have failed her.”
Here is prudent advice for Wall: do not use tales to blame all teachers or this state. If Wall wants to accept blame for this student, she is certainly free to do so, but she has no right to spread her scapegoating blanket on others in the teaching profession.
Her irrational letter defames the character of thousands of hard-working teachers with an insupportable argument: students with low-ACT scores are PROOF that EVERYONE has failed them.
In twenty-four years of teaching, I have known brilliant students who were poor test takers. One valedictorian I taught never obtained the ACT score necessary for scholarships, but today is a successful doctor. Unlike Wall, I will not blame the entire profession because of his performance on one test.
Here’s an inconvenient fact: a low ACT score indicates that a student on a particular day did not do well, that is all. It is not concrete evidence that the teaching profession and/or the state neglected to do its duty.
ACT is merely one tool to gauge if a student is ready for college. It is NOT a tool that easily identifies if a student is ready for life. And here’s another shocking fact for Wall to absorb: not everyone is cut out for college, but they can be highly successful human beings.
Wall claims to know her students’ data, which is interesting considering that this is the first year of the new PARCC-like tests. Exactly what can she compare: last year, Louisiana field-tested a PARCC test designed by Pearson; this year we’re giving a PARCC-like test designed by Data Recognition Corp. Such an apples-to-oranges comparison is potentially fruitless.
Is this kind of thinking the best that Common Core supporters have to offer? No wonder there is a rising tide of outraged parents and educators against a set of standards designed by people with no experience in writing standards.
I have taught over 3,500 students in almost a quarter of a century. Many have been successes; some have not. To judge me by their results is akin to rating a dentist by the cavities in their patients’ mouths. It makes no sense.
I teach my students to never stereotype or scapegoat a group of people based on a single story. I will, however, call out any person who claims I’m a failure because of one story. For me, that’s personal.