Education reform in Seattle public schools

Alyssa Sittig's picture

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2012536250_guest05burgess....

This article talks about a controversial proposal by the Seattle school district to tie teacher-performance evaluations to student performance. Seattle's school district will also start releasing "school-specific" report cards for parents and the community -- which will of course serve to increase competition between schools. 

According to this article, the following states have already begun to tie teacher-performance evaluations and compensation to student academic growth: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

In my opinion, using student performance to evaluate and 'motivate' teachers is a slippery slope. It works in theory to create an inventive for teachers to succeed, but how can you punish a teacher for having a student who doesn't want to learn? Or worse, who can't succeed because of a language barrier or learning disability?

Basing teacher compensation on student performance is the first step down a slippery slope of salary biases in favor of schools of greater affluence, where the students are more prepared to succeed. 

ewoo's picture

re: slippery slope

Basing teacher compensation on student performance is the first step down a slippery slope of salary biases in favor of schools of greater affluence, where the students are more prepared to succeed.

Isn't teacher compensation already deeply tied to the affluence of the surrounding community? I think your point is still valid, though -- tying year-to-year variations in pay to student performance could exacerbate this situation.

I do wonder, though, how different this would be than what we currently have. I suppose the difference is that now, a teacher's seniority is a bigger factor in how influential they are than their most recent performance review.

My personal experience as a Newport High School student was that better-paid and more senior teachers appeared to have greater control over what they taught and hence who they taught. This definitely created a pay imbalance between, for example, teachers who taught AP classes and teachers who did not.

I am not sure if this allowed teachers to control where they taught, though I suspect it did.

mattgould's picture

Cheating in the Classroom

I do like the idea, but the micro managing required to make it work effectively may be too costly. Each performance-check would need to be addressed on a case by case basis to avoid the slippery-slope.

Another thing -- this may actually cause teachers to turn a blind eye towards cheating. If a lackluster teacher's livelihood is on the line, they may not try to enforce classroom anti-cheating rules in favor of boosting their classes GPA, thus saving their job and even getting them raises.

ewoo's picture

re: Cheating in the Classroom

Another thing -- this may actually cause teachers to turn a blind eye towards cheating. If a lackluster teacher's livelihood is on the line, they may not try to enforce classroom anti-cheating rules in favor of boosting their classes GPA, thus saving their job and even getting them raises.

I think you raise in interesting point here. How do we tie teacher pay to student performance without creating a situation where teachers are forced to obsess over short-term test results? Cheating is one part of that, in that a student may do artificially well one year by cheating without learning any real long-term skills (aside from how to cheat ...).

Also, there will inevitably be variation year-to-year in the kinds of students in a teacher's classroom. If a teacher has a larger number of struggling students one year, should his pay suffer for it? If so, how much is reasonable? That kind of year-to-year variation in pay could be quite a financial burden for teachers to bear.

Perhaps we could encourage teachers to think long-term while still having their pay tied to student performance by implementing a royalty-type system. A teacher's pay could be tied to the current performance of his past students, i.e. how the 6th graders he taught two years ago are now doing as 8th graders. For example, the test scores of a teacher's current 6th graders could make up 25% of his performance bonus (so to speak), while the scores of his 7th grader "alumni" could make up another 25%.

The idea here is that if a teacher does a good job one year, he continues to reap the benefits of those students' improved performance as they continue to score well in subsequent years.

This is something like how a musician who releases a hit single continues to receive money when that song is used in commercials ten years later.

This would help to even out the year-to-year variation in teacher pay because a "bumper crop" of talented students will not produce such a huge spike in income, and a particularly difficult year will not create such a huge drop.

More importantly, it would help (further) encourage a teacher to stop a student from cheating. A teacher would prefer for the student to learn real skills and do well in subsequents years -- even at the cost of difficulty in the current year -- because this student's long-term performance has a larger impact on the teacher's pay than just the current year's test score.

I suppose one drawback is that a teacher's pay can suffer because of failures by teachers in subsequent grades. In the end, though, a student can learn a great deal in one year as a result of a good teacher's efforts, then fail to learn anything in the next year because of the failings of a poor teacher. Teacher pay would just reflect this reality.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137