Eulogy

Mrs. Braden, room 52

I started teaching when education was still considered an honorable profession. When testing results became the measure of the worth of a teacher, education declined from instruction through shared values and knowledge to a level of training to pass a test, not unlike a dog obedience class. As a result of this mandate, true education across our country continues to plummet. No one but teachers can judge what happens in classrooms. Cold, indifferent numbers of the business paradigm can NEVER be the measure of a real teacher nor reflect the knowledge a child possesses. Public school teachers must stand up across this nation with a unified voice in defense of authentic learning and thinking. I, for one, am sick of abuse in the guise of wisdom from the clueless. Enough!
State testing is today's version of the Salem witch trials. I am outraged that in all the noise being made about underperforming schools and less than stellar teachers, nobody has pointed an accusing finger at the students. Isn't anyone out there aware that students are not held accountable for those damned tests by which teachers, schools, and districts are being branded, stigmatized, and publicly victimized?

The assumption by those outside the system is that state test scores reflect poor teaching. In reality students' poor test results often reveal lack of honest effort because students are not answerable for their own scores. Some students even use their scores to punish a teacher who demands excellence. If students choose to mark B for all their answers over a five-minute period and sleep for the remainder of the test, nothing happens to them. If they don't feel like working out the answer for a lengthy math problem, they mark a random answer from a choice of four and move on knowing that the blame for their poor performance will be attributed to their teacher, not them. There is absolutely no accountability nor responsibility on behalf of the students: they are not dishonored nor are they held back; their grades do not suffer, and they graduate without as much as a footnote on their diploma. There is utterly no reflection on students for poor performance on those mandated tests and students know this.

We all know there are a number of worthless teachers out there, but the dedicated ones outnumber them by far. Our teachers should not be vilified publicly by having their names posted in a newspaper for actions that are clearly not completely within their control.

Mr. Rigoberto Ruelas, a teacher in Los Angeles public schools, recently took his young life. Though I did not know Mr. Ruelas personally, by acclamation from those who did know him, he was a dedicated professional in all aspects. It was reported nationwide that he committed suicide after he was branded by the LA Times as a "less effective" teacher, using students' test scores as their measure. Mr. Ruelas should not be remembered as a footnote in a shameful publication but for the honorable effort he put forth in our country’s future. In my heart I believe the LA Times should share accountability for his untimely death.

Public school teachers across this nation must take a unified stand in the defense of public education. No one but those with multiple years in the trenches of the classrooms have the wisdom and experience to determine how to proceed with a plan for education, and I seriously doubt that public humiliation will be part of that plan.

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.