GSGIt is ironic that the Sun-Star runs an editorial decrying teachers unions not signing on the federal Race to the Top grant the same week our Merced Union High School District reached agreement with its District Teachers Association on the same grant. The editorial asks the question, "How could teachers pass up the opportunity?" but never bothers to investigate the issue.
Using student performance as a portion of a teacher's evaluation sounds like a reasonable idea at first. Closer scrutiny reveals many serious questions: What indicator of student performance should be used that would authentically reflect a teacher's effectiveness? How do you take into consideration the aptitude of students in different classrooms? What issues affect student learning that are beyond the control of the teacher? How do you equitably award money for teacher performance among a math teacher, a physical education teacher, a special ed teacher and an ag teacher? These are just a few of the big questions.
After more than a decade of No Child Left Behind, perhaps teachers are sick of maliciously naive political policies degrading the quality of education. The combination of standards and high-stakes testing to determine the "quality" of education has forced education to focus on more rote learning at the expense of teaching critical thinking skills. Education's "leaders" are finally realizing how corrosive this has been and are tossing NCLB for a more realistic Common Core approach.
If teachers refuse to go along with failed policies tied to a good idea, maybe they know what they are doing. Our local high school district and its teachers association both wanted an agreement that is equitable, enlightened and effective. It required a tremendous amount of investigation and work on both sides, but we signed on and will go forward. Now we wait to see if the grant is accepted and then work to implement policies that will actually benefit students, for a change.
Boykin, a Merced resident, teaches at Golden Valley High School.