Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Why teachers are leery

They’re leery of so-called performance compensation. Here’s an example of why.

In Edina, the teachers are presently at an impasse with the school board in inking a contract for the period that began last July. There are a few issues in contention, but unsurprisingly, compensation is at the top of the list.

The students in Edina consistently perform at or near the very top of test scores in Minnesota. The district’s voters routinely pass referenda for capital improvements and for operating expenses for the schools. Effortlessly.

You would think that such a high-achieving district with a demonstrated willingness to raise money for its schools would reward its teachers for the kind of achievement that has been wrought.

You’d be dead wrong. Edina ranks 28th in average teacher compensation in the state.

Well, someone might say: of course, the kids are ready to learn; they have affluent and involved parents; the kids get breakfast before coming to school. (Never mind that none of this is universally true, even in Edina.)

All right; let’s accept that premise for a moment. But then the converse has to be true, too, doesn’t it? In other words, teachers from poor districts shouldn’t be the ones held responsible for the socio-economic conditions of their students, as reflected in lower test scores, or for the so-called “achievement gap?”

But obviously, conservatives try to place the blame for students’ poor achievement squarely on the teachers.

It’s a no-win deal for the teachers: great achievement is due to other factors, and poor achievement is the teachers’ fault. This is why teachers’ unions exist.

Spot will come back and fill in some links about test scores and average compensation; that data just isn’t in linkable form to Spot yet.

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