Friday, October 31, 2008

Test Scores, Betrayal, and Being Human

Seems to me that MiShawna Moore is one of us: an educator who cared and went to great lengths (too far sometimes) for her students. This story is becoming all too common as we look to test scores to reassure us that everything in our schools is all right. Neil Postman warned us years ago when he said that science has become the new golden calf, the thing we worship because science is never wrong. In reality, whether science is right or wrong (and it can be wrong), Postman argued, human beings should be thinking, not relying only on data, polls, and test scores.

It seems MiShawna Moore cared. No one argues that she went way beyond the call of duty. If she were a soldier and her school were a battlefield, she would have been given a medal, and would be a national hero. But it seems that between feeding and clothing her students, and sometimes their families, and making her students believe in themselves; she was doctoring test scores. So far there is only circumstantial evidence that test scores had been doctored, but MiShawna Moore resigned and moved away. I can only believe that she meant the best and her alleged actions, if misguided, had the highest of intentions. She has become a victim of a society that is crying out for a savior, one she was willing to be, yet a society that demands evidence that the happiness of our children will ultimately lead to greater earning power.

And here is the betrayal. If MiShawna Moore were to be convicted of anything it is this: She made the people in her community believe that they could be successful. And success can be measured in two ways: happiness with being who we are; or a large bank account. Moore was providing the first kind of success when the community was assuming that the success was the second kind. Moore must have known the difference. I suspect that she ignored the difference and hoped that one day the two definitions would coincide.

When MiShawna Moore walked away, we lost a little piece of our humanity: imperfect, basically good, and caught up in a world in which we face some very serious realities that should not be trifled with by assigning test scores to assure ourselves that those realities don't exist. Life is not that easy, as MiShawna Moore just proved.

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