"Trust, but Verify" - Ronald Reagan
If you walked into her class at any point in time, her students were having fun, were engaged, and she was working with them. The HUGE PROBLEM, though, was that she only liked to teach about plants. And she liked to do art projects. So, in her high school Biology class, she had students coloring pictures of plants, cutting out flowers from construction paper to make a tree in the back of the class, and looking at plants under the microscope and drawing what they saw. That's it. Arguably, it IS "biology." It certainly wasn't high school biology, wasn't rigorous, and wasn't teaching her students all the things they should know about biology.
These were things a first grader should be doing. She didn’t TEACH them about plants. She didn’t TEACH them about cells, DNA, or evolution. She just did little art projects, and claimed that was Biology. I feel she did a great disservice to her students in refusing to cover the entire curriculum. And if I knew this teacher in MY high school, I am pretty sure this was not the only “fun and easy” teacher.
This is another reason I am for the Common Core. If you let teachers decide whatever they want to teach, they will pick the topics they like, and that are easy to teach. Not every teacher would go to this extreme, but some certainly would. What if your child was in this class? You'd see pretty pictures sent home, you'd hear that the class was fun and they were building a tree. But what about all the other things that Biology is? How do we make sure teachers are teaching what they are supposed to be teaching?
The answer is, standardized tests. In order to make sure each teacher is covering the entire curriculum, the tests have to be made by someone other than the teacher. Maybe the teacher I speak of gave tests where you filled in the blanks, or matched flower parts, and every student got an A, while my students had to memorized the photosynthesis and cellular respiration equations and use them in problems. If my students get less than an A, they complain I'm too hard. Standardized tests make sure each high school biology class is learning the bare minimum, however I decide to teach it, and checks my students for learning.
For as many problems as there are with the tests, and the Common Core, there is a much bigger problem facing our students. The problem is unprofessional teachers. Like your teacher or hate your teacher, teachers are hired to cover an entire set of standards. If the teacher doesn't like teaching, or wants to be unprofessional, they shouldn't be in our schools, working with our most precious resource - our kids.
Just because we EXPECT teachers to be professionals, if we do not INSPECT them, using standardized measures, we don't know that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Local measures of evaluating teachers are too subject to manipulation. Standardized measures are the way to go.