All Hail the Almighty TAKS Test
I was saddened as I came across this article in the Dallas Morning News. Apparently Texas lawmakers think offering monetary incentives to teachers who produce high test scores is a good idea.
“Like top athletes who earn millions for scoring more baskets and CEOs who earn perks for boosting profits, Texas teachers will get bonuses for raising test scores… Gov. Rick Perry and other supporters insist the program will push Texas to the forefront of educational excellence.
They argue that teachers will strive to improve student test scores and other measures if they can increase their salary by thousands of dollars a year. Talented teachers will be more inclined to stay in the profession, they say.”
I am definitely in favor of paying talented teachers more, but I am not in favor of basing pay incentives on test scores. This plan seems like the ideal way to get teachers to “teach to the test.” If knowing enough to pass the TAKS test is the only standard Texas holds for its students, then tying incentive pay to test scores will probably help get this done, but if we would like to have graduates who can think for themselves, solve authentic problems, discuss current events, balance a checkbook, work in collaborative groups, communicate effectively, etc., then this plan is a HORRIBLE idea.
According to the article, most teacher groups opposed the bill. Some of the concerns mentioned have to do with cheating and teacher competition.
“I’m very bothered about the whole premise of paying out money based on performance,” said David McClure, a sixth-grader teacher at Davis Intermediate School in Wylie. “If you thought there was cheating now, you wait until money’s thrown in the mix.” This is a legitimate concern especially with cheating on the TAKS dominating the news recently.
“She [Aimee Bolender, president of Alliance/AFT, a Dallas teachers union] said the bonus plan could also create adversarial relationships among teachers based on who gets the extra money. Some teachers may not want certain students in their classroom if they believe those students will drag down test scores.” I know in my district, IISD, we try to foster collegiality and sharing of ideas and lessons; I am afraid many teachers will stop sharing if the focus shifts to earning incentive pay.
Sue Abar, a teacher in Desoto, brings up another valid point, “…she wonders how districts will decide which teachers get the money. If students score high on their third-grade reading scores, for instance, should the first- and second-grade teachers get some of the credit? The process needs to be fair, she said.” Eleventh grade students come to English III with a basic knowledge of the language, so if he/she scores well in 11th grade do the previous teachers get a cut of the money? Do they deserve it? Good question…
There are great teachers, good teachers and teachers who babysit. I think we all know this, but are high test scores the only indicator we want to use to decide who (if anyone) deserves a pay bonus?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter…