My principal job as a parent is to nurture my children.  I feed, clothe and house them.  I scrutinize their talents and gauge how and what to support.  When distractions tempt me from my job I try to focus on its principles and limit the temptation to stray.  An optimal interplay with the “extracurricular” is debatable of course, with extremes of “helicopter” or “curling” parents defining one arena of outliers, neglect and abuse another; there are other ways to lose balance.

But in terms of their education, I feel often as if I am picking my way through the Styx, with skirmishes and pitfalls all around about which I know little while understanding that ignorance is a peril.

For example, the fight about Education Reform (or as Scott Folsom, a huge parent-presence in LA terms it, “Ed ®eform”).  Integral to the movement, perhaps underlying most if not all of it, is a battle of, by, against and for we plebeians regarding:  Labor unions.

So many of us are so attacked by this issue on so many fronts.  Lila Garrett of “Connect The Dots” on KPFK had a fascinating discussion on Feb 3, 2014 with congressman Alan Grayson followed by Laurie Wallach, director of Public Citizens’ Global Tradewatch.  The imbalance of trade and economies and income that results when citizens are not organized in counterbalance to “capital” is just staggering.  The interconnectedness of governments and “labor” is fundamental to our lives.

Even — and perhaps specifically — within the realm of Ed ®eform.  Because my children’s right to a good, public education is falling prey to this multinational, derivative fight to undermine Labor.

Teachers are obsessed – understandably, and reasonably for them – with the attack on their jobs by ideologues.  Their very job – whether or not they are fired from their professional post – depends on the quantitative metrics resulting from a computerized test of their pupils.  Not a test of the teacher directly, but of the purported “outcome” of their teaching, their pupils’ standardized-test results.

The general game-plan is:  consider the student’s progress in terms of the quantified data recorded for that student, evaluate the student periodically and the difference between the expectation of that student’s metric and what they actually scored, is the bit that accounts for what a teacher has “added”, or detracted, to that student’s learning.

From a a statistical standpoint there is an enormous amount that is problematic with this “Value-Added Model” (aka VAM).  As a general rule of thumb, if the data collected does not measure what you want to know, the data analyzed will not accurately reflect what you want to learn.  There’s no magic that statistical science can provide:  GIGO.

Teachers measure their value in terms far broader than the narrow focus of their students’ increase on a singular tested metric.  This is not considered the sum total of the service an educator provides; it is not the sum total, experience or value, of Education.

Parents feel precisely the same way.  All of them: ask one, any one.  Show me any parent who would consider a child “learned” after being shown how to press the ipad button for “8” to correct a previous year’s mistake in summing 3 and 5.  Every single parent wants more for their child than this.  Yet this metric is a pared-down version of all a teacher’s job is valued to be in the new, Education-®eformed world.

When a teacher is measured on such meager, derivative, falsely theorized models, it is no wonder they look elsewhere for an explanation as to what the evaluation means.  It does not reference their value as a teacher:  what is going on?  There is a lot to suggest the initiative has more to do with union-busting, than with education evaluation.

As a parent I feel a little embarrassed, standing on the sidelines wondering whether to avert my eyes or engage, decrying the need to become educated on a whole, deep subject that is not even my own.  Though of course in the most important sense of all, it must be.  An attack on the components, the teachers, of a system charged with bringing my child to functional adulthood, is an attack on my purpose.

Therefore we “parents” have a true common cause with teachers as they fall victim to ludicrous misuse of statistical models.  We lose in multiple dimensions when we allow unions to be busted.  We are citizens who lose when our country is disenfranchised from a global marketplace without worker protections; we are ourselves workers who are undermined when our value is depressed perennially by inhumane profit-driven corporations.  And in the end it is, after all, our own children who are entrusted to the care of those professionals protected by collective action.

The needs of our children dictate benefit from teachers free to focus on professional achievement and not political power mongering or profit-driving capital maximizing.  We need teachers to earn a salary commensurate with their learning, in line with their value as advisers of our most precious commodity, our children.  And we need teachers to focus on our children, not the fragility of their position as bulwarks in a global offense by the 1% on the rest of us.