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NCLB Outrages

Compromise can compensate for misguided merit-pay ruling

Lisa Guisbond Comment:Paying teachers for test scores is a really good way to achieve score inflation, not good education. But don't take my word for it, see a new FairTest fact sheet that sums up all the damaging effects of pay for test scores: besides score inflation, it narrows curriculum, is often based on results marred by errors, contributes to cheating ( see today's paper), damages the collaborative environment needed to support students, causes "goal distortion" (i.e., the goal becomes higher scores, not real learning), among other problems.

Boston Globe Editorial

TEACHERS’ UNIONS bristle at any implication that they place their own contract provisions above their students’ academic success. Then they go about proving it over and over again.

The nonprofit Mass Math & Science Initiative, a division of Mass Insight, worked diligently in 2007 to win a five-year grant to recruit, train, and reward teachers for Advanced Placement classes in math, science, and English at 10 Massachusetts high schools. Last year, the program expanded to another 11 schools across the state, proving itself effective at raising the AP participation and pass rates for low-income students who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to college-level material.

But the exciting initiative is bogged down in Boston after a labor arbitrator ruled that merit pay provisions to AP teachers violate the city’s teachers’ union contract. The ruling is aimed primarily at a provision that gives teachers in urban schools an extra $100 for each student who scores a 3 or higher on the 5-point AP exam. The school department should appeal the harmful ruling and clear the way for expanding the program.

There’s an ideological war taking place here. The teachers’ union believes that rewarding teachers based on student performance will tear apart their bargaining unit. The Mass Math & Science Initiative, which raises private funds for this program, believes pay for performance to be an essential part of replicating such success on a wide scale. They have the stronger argument. Similar AP programs are showing impressive results in more than 150 schools in five other states.

The likely casualties in this battle will be the hundreds of AP students at the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury. Next come the students in 10 additional Boston schools slated for an expansion of the program. The likely winners will be charter schools, which will receive the $1 million in AP inducements intended for the Boston district schools.

Teachers’ Union president Richard Stutman says the union has been reasonable. He thought he had a handshake deal with the school department last summer to distribute the merit pay equally to all the teachers at the O’Bryant to reflect their hard work over the years in readying students for the rigors of AP. But Morton Orlov, who runs the AP initiative for Mass Insight, goes one better. He is willing to raise matching funds for the entire teaching staff provided that the AP teachers get to keep their individual bonuses.

This reasonable compromise would put more money in teachers’ pockets, expand AP classes across Boston, and still leave plenty of room for the two sides to hash out their differences. While they are arguing about the intricacies of merit pay, hundreds more high school students in Boston would be absorbed in higher level math, science, and English. To deny them that opportunity would be unconscionable.

— Editorial
Boston Globe
2009-12-15
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2009/12/15/compromise_can_compensate_for_misguided_merit_pay_ruling/


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