“Performance pay” idea far from dead


Texas is one of a vanishing species of states – 10 – that don’t require tests scores or another form of student achievement measurement to be a “significant” or the “most significant” factor in teacher evaluations. But don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet because the species is vanishing quickly, and you can be sure another effort will be made to impose those requirements on Texas teachers the next time the Legislature meets.

Education is a cumulative, collaborative process that involves many teachers for every student. Singling out one teacher for praise and higher pay and another for possible dismissal simply on the basis of the latest set of test scores is wrong, and no amount of political posturing will make it right. But that won’t necessarily stop Texas’ next governor and some legislators – depending on who is elected — from trying to force unfair requirements on teachers instead of giving teachers and their students the adequate resources necessary for widespread success.

According to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, 35 states and the District of Columbia now require student achievement to be a “significant” or the “most significant” factor in teacher evaluations. Two years ago, Education Week reported, only 30 states had those requirements.

The National Council on Teacher Quality supports so-called “performance pay.” The report denies that “high stakes decisions about teachers are being made in haste based on single standardized test scores.” But it adds, “States need to require and implement (teacher evaluation) measures that demonstrate a relationship with student achievement.”

When self-styled education “reformers” in Texas talk about tying performance or merit pay to student achievement, the measures they usually propose are student test scores, even if the tests aren’t designed to evaluate teachers.

Policymakers need to put first things first. Teachers in Texas are paid more than $8,000 below the national average. The governor and the Legislature need to raise the pay level for all Texas teachers before they start trying to single anyone out. Then, if lawmakers are still going to insist on a new teacher evaluation system, they need to listen to teachers when they design it.

The 2014 elections are rapidly approaching. Does anyone think Greg Abbott, were he to be elected governor, would move a finger to raise teacher pay? Of course not. Instead, he is busy promising cuts to education and just about everything else to curry the support of right-wing ideologues in the Republican primary. That’s what his so-called “budget plan” was all about last week.

And, there will be many legislative candidates, like the conservative Republican who announced for an open House seat in North Texas last week, who will vow to “improve” public education “through innovative solutions and accountability.”

Yeah. “Innovative solutions” like private school vouchers, more corporate-style charters and other forms of privatization. And the kind of “accountability” that requires teachers to jump through more hoops to keep their jobs.

Watch out who you vote for, folks.






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