Rose: Right. Right. Right. So if there was something you could change about your job or the job of teaching, you know separate from how much you’re paid, what would that be?
Georgette: I would get rid of the over testing.
[Learn more about Ohio’s state tests.]
Georgette: In Ohio there are basically two measurements with this testing. There is the percentage of the students that passed the test. So I think it's called the indicator. But now what they do is they tie each individual student to the teacher that taught them that subject. So, for example, last year our test scores for our indicator skyrocketed because we added that Gizmos program. Yet, my individual grading as a teacher went down because they have some way of predicting what score that student should get. So if they say that student should get a 700 and they don't get a 700 even if they get the highest rating on the test, you if they’re advanced or accelerated, then that still counts against the teacher. So even though you have a student who can do very well on the test, the value added data, I think is what it's called, that part goes against the teacher. That's rough when you open that, when you see your percentage overall is great. You know 82 percent, 90 percent of your kids pass the test, yet your individual rating still says you're a terrible teacher.
Rose: It's not really breeding teacher collaboration is it?
Georgette: Yeah. Because you have to perform. And in reality there are so many things outside of my classroom that I have no control over. I know my students pretty well. I feel like I have wonderful rapport with them. I wouldn't say I know every detail of their lives, but I know some of the situations they're coming from. And I won't speak about specific students, but I have students that I know their primary concern is the basic needs in life and not passing a biology test.
Rose: Sleeping, eating, being safe.
Georgette: Having electricity. Your parents not being in jail. Serious things. Where am I going to sleep tonight? What am I going to eat for dinner? And so it's really hard to look at that kid and say you've got to pass this test because I'm going to get a bad rating if you don't. You need to come to school every day. Because that's not their concern. And I almost I feel like I'm being selfish if I'm worried about that rating when I know that this kid doesn't have any heat at his house.
Rose: Yeah. It gives a different meaning to what value add is as a teacher doesn't it?
Georgette: And there's no way or it doesn't seem any motivation to take that into account. If you have a student who misses school three days a week that affects the attendance rate of the school. I cannot teach that child as a correspondence class. When a kid is out two or three days a week, when they come back they're out of class because they're making up all the work and quizzes and tests they missed. So you're not actually teaching that kid. And why they're not coming to school may be a whole different matter. But that is not something I have control over. I cannot get in my car, come to their house, and say you've got to come to school because I've got to have a good rating at the end of the year.
Georgette: If I could get rid of anything it would be the over testing. It's a lot of pressure on the kids, too. They have to accumulate so many points in order to graduate now. Based on what they get on all these different tests they take, all the different areas of this AIR test that they have to take. I have no problem being evaluated and someone making sure that I'm doing my job. I have a job. I work for the district. And if they want to make sure that I'm coming in and teaching every day and that the kids are learning, I have no problem with that. Any job you ever work at, someone is going to oversee that you're doing what you're supposed to do.
Rose: That's not the issue.
Georgette: But this extra. . . this test and the money that's spent on the testing would be a nice addition to a school, to the school district's budget.
Rose: To teachers’ salaries even. You don't have to say that, but I will say that on your behalf. What do you think it means to be a teacher in America today with the world changing as it is with technology being so prolific, with the demographics of America changing, what does it mean to be a teacher in America today?
Georgette: The way I feel, you kind of have to accept going into it that this is how it's going to be. You're not going to make a lot of money. There's a lot of stress. There's a lot of pressure to get good test scores. You're going to deal with all kinds of kids from all kinds of backgrounds and situations that you have no control over. There will be days you will drive home from work just exhilarated, that's something that you got through to this kid, or that you know you made a difference in a kid's life. And there are days you're going to sit down at your desk at the end of the day and cry, because your heart breaks for some of these kids.
Rose: Thank you Georgette for joining us and thank you for what you do every day for kids.
Georgette: You’ve very welcome.
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Research for this piece included contributions from K. A. Jagai and Ireen Hossain, Girls Write Now writers.