I am a teacher at Enumclaw High School. I’ve worked there for 16 years and I take great pride in what I do. That said, I have some wonderings about some of our local candidates’ recent comments about education.
Drew Stokesbary believes that for most students, smaller classes don’t “produce smarter kids.” My question, beyond his sources because the research I’ve seen in my professional capacity indicates the exact opposite of his opinion, would be how is he defining “smarter kids”? Is he going by standardized test scores? In my view, test scores are only one small measure of a child’s growth. What shows up on a test and what a kid really has learned and can do are often very different things. I also know that the quality of the experience students have in my classroom is highly dependent on class size. Twenty-five students in a class is dramatically different from 33 students; it just is. Managing the classroom, the amount of feedback I can give student writing and the amount of individual instruction I can give kids are just a few differences class size makes.
I was also a bit confounded by Mr. Stokebary’s comment that teachers earning master’s degrees shouldn’t get raises. Does Mr. Stokesbary think that if something can’t be measured through test scores it doesn’t exist? Does he believe that teachers do not improve by advancing their education nor deserve avenues for advancement? I felt my master’s program absolutely made me a better teacher. Before I actually stood in front of a class and had to sink or swim as a teacher, I didn’t really know what teaching was. Everything was theoretical. Going back to school with the context of my real experience to apply made the learning much more valuable. I feel this is short-sighted and misguided idea.
My final concern was Cathy Dahlquist’s solution to meeting the Supreme Court’s education spending mandate, which included “reforming teacher compensation to ensure we maintain high quality teachers.” This sounds like a proposal to tie teacher salaries to testing, adding even more emphasis to the high stakes assessments our kids are taking. Does this improve education? I know a lot of great teachers, teachers far more skilled than myself, that make profound differences in the lives of the children of our community every day. I’m not sure how making their living dependent on student test scores, and the myriad of factors that go into them, is going to motivate them.
I go to work every day with dozens of amazing people who strive to make a positive difference for kids. People who are giving their all and playing a vital, positive role in the lives of our children. This is something we take pride in. We need to work together as a community to improve education for everyone, not throw darts in the dark with politically motivated guesses at how to make things better.