Dear Local Newspaper: Please stop ranking schools, teachers, and students.

The Syracuse, NY publication of the Post-Standard has been nicknamed, the Sub-Standard for good reason.

 

Do you want to know who are the best teachers in Upstate, NY? Well, the Syracuse Post-Standard has a list for you, dear reader. On September 19, 2017, the non-award winning paper listed twenty-five of the “best” teachers who are teaching in certain schools in Upstate New York based on the following criteria:

  • student-to-teacher ratio
  • teacher absenteeism
  • overall “academic grade” of the district
  • teacher salaries
  • “other” factors

So, just to be clear: the best teachers in Upstate New York have the following:

  • small class sizes (no bigger than 13:1)
  • healthy teachers
  • great standardized test scores
  • large tax bases; and
  • “other” factors (what ever that means).

This criterion means that any intelligent person can predict what kind of schools will have “great” teachers: schools in wealthy, suburban settings.

Three districts included in the list are located near where I live, including Baldwinsville, Fayetteville-Manlius, and Skaneateles. These three districts share distinct advantages over districts not making the list: a large tax base and a low number of students living in poverty.

I spent my first eight years of my career teaching in the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District — you know, one of those schools with the “best” teachers. I have spent the last fifteen years as a teacher about twenty minutes northwest in the Liverpool Central School District. Did the quality of my pedagogy change when I changed districts? The answer is an emphatic YES! I became a much better teacher when I changed districts. Not only was I challenged by working with new, outstanding colleagues, but the Liverpool Central School District offered me greater professional development, a higher salary and compensation, more access to technology in my classroom, and opportunities to teach different topics.

I remember one of my relatives questioning my decision to take a job in the Liverpool Central School District. She wondered why I would leave such a fabulous school like Fayetteville-Manlius? It was a great district to teach in, but it does not own a monopoly on excellence. The competition and labeling of “best” schools and teachers feed into the false narrative of failing schools. Because if a few schools and teachers are the epitome of quality education and instruction, then every other district and teacher within those substandard districts are lacking. People choose their houses based on those perceptions.

I have attended the West Genesee, the Marcellus, the Jordan-Elbridge and the North Syracuse Central School Districts. Obviously, I was a kid who moved around quite a bit. I am now a parent of two children in the Cato-Meridian Central School District. In total, I have been a participant, either as a student, a teacher, or parent, in seven different public school districts in Central New York. Regrettably, none of these above-mentioned schools were listed in the Syracuse Post-Standard’s list of the twenty-five schools with the “best” teachers. However, I can attest that all of these districts have excellent teachers and students who are performing above expectations.

And, all of the twenty-five districts listed in the article have “bad” teachers too. Just like any profession, teaching has its share of non-examples. Unfortunately, teaching is so significant that “bad” teachers make such an impact on personal stories that examples of malpractice help fuel the narrative of failing public schools.

As consumers of media and taxpaying Americans, we must not believe the hype. This type of article is the epitome of “fake” news. It is not journalism — it is sensationalism and it is dangerous.

Unfortunately, the number of clicks and comments an article gets is often more important than substance to the bottom line of any publication. Thankfully, I was taught by the “best” teachers in Central New York, and these great professionals instilled in me the joy of critical thinking. I am confident that readers of Syracuse.com, the Post-Standard, any other news outlets, can distinguish between fluff and substance.

#whyweM4PE

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One thought on “Dear Local Newspaper: Please stop ranking schools, teachers, and students.

Add yours

  1. Yes! We were just named a Top 10 School in Southwest Michigan. What that means is that in the 30th state in the nation for education we are a “Top 10 School” in this tiny little corner of the state. Not even the whole state! Yea??? BTW from Rochester, NY originally and it is the exact same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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