Missing the point

Last week, I wrote about some Massachusetts teachers who were suing to get their jobs back after repeatedly failing an English proficiency test. This Sunday, in an astonishing development, the Boston Globe found and interviewed three teachers who are watching their case with great interest — their own jobs are on the line over that law, too.

I read the sob stories, and found myself feeling sympathetic for the teachers. Regardless, I think the law is a good one, and should stand.

One teacher’s account leaped out to me. Raineldo Borrero teaches 2nd-graders in Spanish, and has done so as a teacher’s aide and substitute for years. She accepted a full-time job, but repeatedly failed the English proficiency exam, and now her job has been posted as open.

I’m sure Ms. Borrero is a fine teacher and she sounds like an admirable human being, but the law was enacted for very good reasons. And if she cannot pass the test, she has my sympathies.

But she proves my point with a single quote, one the Globe thought so important that they used it as both the title and as the closing line:

“If you’re doubting me as a teacher, come here every day.”

Um… that’s the whole point of the test, Ms. Borrero. We simply don’t have the time or resources to supervise every teacher every day. That’s why we have the tests — they are to make certain the teachers are fit to teach without daily supervision and micromanagement. And there has to be some sort of standard. Massachusetts has decided that this test on English proficiency will be a part of that standard, and the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Ms. Borrero, I am sorry you didn’t pass, and found it difficult to take it. But we can’t just carve out exceptions for everyone, or we shouldn’t bother having any standards at all.

(Note to astigafa: I spent a total of 12 minutes on the above piece, starting with the title and ending with the final period, not counting this note but including several referrals back to the source article. Feel free to spend as much time as you like picking it apart.)

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