The newly named 2013 National Teacher of the Year, who is visiting with President Obama at the White House on Tuesday with other award-winning teachers, is not a big fan of all of Obama’s education policy initiatives and believes that some reformers are mischaracterizing America’s public schools.
Jeff Charbonneau, a high school science teacher from Zillah, Washington, was tapped as the 63rd National Teacher of the Year in a contest sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. The winner, chosen by a committee of representatives from 15 education organizations, is pulled from the cohort of State Teachers of the Year, who themselves are selected through different processes in various states.
He and the other State Teachers of the Year visited Monday with Jill Biden, a veteran educator, at the official residence of the Vice President, and will all go to the White House on Tuesday to see Obama.
Charbonneau teaches chemistry, physics and engineering at Zillah High School. He is the founder and director of the award-winning Zillah Robot Challenge, which is open to students and schools across the state and is designed to help students gain confidence in addressing science and engineering concepts.
In an interview, Charbonneau, who is co-president of the Zillah Education Association, said he is opposed to one of the key tenets of modern school reform: linking teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores. The Obama administration has encouraged states to reform teacher evaluation systems and include linking test scores as one measure of achievement.
Charbonneau said that it is not even clear if the standardized tests themselves are “completely valid or show what students know.”
“At this point I don’t think you can tie those test scores [to teacher evaluations] as it currently being done,” he said. “Could they have relevance in the future if the tests are better? Yes.”
Charbonneau also said that he disagrees with school reformers and others who say that American public education is in a crisis.
“The concept that we are a nation of failing schools I believe is false,” he said. “We are a nation of succeeding schools. I think our schools are succeeding far more and at higher levels than given credit for…. I agree that there are areas that need improvement, but at the same time, there are many things we are doing right that are not celebrated.”