Public Good — Or Commodity? | Taking Note

One of my sadder moments as a teacher came shortly after a spring evaluation. In the fall, the principal had noted in the evaluation that I was doing a great job covering standards and that kids were going to be well-prepared for the state tests in the spring. By spring, however, things were different and that same principal looked me in the eye after my evaluation and said, "You have done *nothing* to prepare these kids for the test." So what happened? The testing pressure had gotten to the principal, for sure, but then I found out that some students had complained. Apparently, the teacher I replaced (whose lesson plan book I still had) had the kids put away their textbooks in January and replaced them with commercial test-prep materials. My students had grown to expect to spend _two months practicing multiple-choice problems_ in advance of the tests. (And if test scores had been any indication, that strategy wasn't helping.) When they heard my test-prep strategy (This is a math class. There's math on the test. Trust me and you'll be fine.), some panicked, and I don't hold anything against them for having done so. Perhaps my favorite part from this article comes from Mark Shields: "While ideologues believe that what is right works, the rest of us believe that what works is right." You'll have to read the rest to fully understand the context.