Whatever else one might say about Republican (for now) Florida Governor Charlie Crist, he was absolutely right to veto a bill that would link teacher pay to student performance (italics mine):
Mr. Crist said Thursday that his decision was not political. He cited “the incredible outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents, students, superintendents, school boards and legislators.”
The bill was supported by the Florida Department of Education and statewide business groups, which expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision, saying that teachers should be held more accountable.
But the governor, announcing his veto in the Capitol in Tallahassee, said the changes envisioned would put “teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs and teaching certificates, without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured.”
Linking teacher pay to student achievement has long been a goal of some education reformers. They are mostly conservatives, but their ranks also include people in the Obama administration.
Thanks to ‘progressives’ in the Obama Administration (and wealthy foundations that support this rubbish), this crap is going to keep coming back. And it is crap:
When Florida proposed strict accountability measures, teachers, parents and administrators pushed back. They argued that the proposed system — basing renewal of teacher contracts and at least half their raises on how well students did on standardized tests — would hold them responsible for factors in students’ lives beyond their control.
“I am not a puppet master; I can’t pull strings and make them perform,” said Amy Horr, a second-grade teacher in the Miami-Dade School District who attended a rally on Monday. “I can’t even make them come to school.”
That’s probably the pithiest rebuttal I’ve ever heard–and it summarizes the most critical factor in test performance: poverty, which, using state data, accounts for about half the variation in student performance. If you have lots of poor students, having competitive test scores with students that aren’t poor is an almost certain statistical impossibility. So all this policy would do is encourage any teacher with a mortgage or a sick relative to move to schools with fewer poor children.
What underlies all of this is the false belief that the primary problem underlying the educational ‘crisis’–although, for those states that have world-class systems, it’s not a crisis–is managerial.
That mindset did wonders for U.S. industry. Imagine what it can do for our children’s development! That somehow, the right scheme of worker manipulation incentives will magically make up for the structural shortcomings of schools face (e.g., physicalinfrastructure, supplies and materials, class sizes), as well as the absence in states that perform poorly (or worse than expected given student poverty) of a rigorous, meaningful curriculum. The magic incentive scheme also won’t compensate for hiring unqualified teachers and inadequate continuing education for teachers.
In the supposed halcyon days of yore, wherein sixth graders were philosopher kings, we didn’t have ‘teacher accountability.’ We supported teachers: that means money and the hard political work of developing meaningful, content-focused standards.
Thankfully, Governor Crist gets this.