Greg Abbott’s teacher “bonus” idea sounds more like a bad April Fool’s joke concocted by a tone-deaf political consultant than a serious policy proposal from someone aspiring to be governor of Texas. Abbott is proposing that teachers be awarded a $50 bonus for every student who passes an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam – up to $2,000 each year.
Abbott has been so busy over at the attorney general’s office defending an inadequate school funding plan, including $5.4 billion in budget cuts from 2011, that he must not have noticed what the Legislature did last year. Last spring, lawmakers reduced from 15 to five the number of end-of-course exams that high school students have to pass in order to graduate. And, why did they do that? Because parents have had it up to here with the state’s overemphasis on standardized testing and what they fear is a plague of teaching to the test at the expense of real instruction.
Now, what does Abbott or that political consultant think is going to happen if teachers are given a financial incentive, regardless of how pitiful, for every passing grade on an AP or IB test? Parents are going to start screaming even louder against teaching to the test. And, teachers, whether guilty of the practice or not, are going to take the blame.
Moreover, the bonus plan would unfairly overlook many teachers in lower grades who gave the AP and IB students the necessary foundation for passing those tests. Teachers who administer the tests don’t deliver the passing scores alone.
What is really insulting about Abbott’s proposed bonus, however, is the fact that average teacher pay in Texas is about $7,000 below the national average. Abbott ignores this problem while proposing a few dollars for a limited number of teachers. Teachers are professional educators, folks, not bounty hunters.
There is a stark contrast in education between Abbott and his opponent, Wendy Davis. Davis has made teachers the first plank in her education platform and wants to begin a serious conversation about improving teacher pay and student achievement. And, unlike Abbott, she consults with real educators.
Abbott listens to education privatization schemers, including pseudo “reformers” who want to drain neighborhood schools of tax dollars to enrich private charter operators. That’s where meaningless ideas like test bonuses come from.