The Seattle Times Is Wrong — Parents Do NOT Want Teachers Evaluated by Standardized Test Scores. VOTE NO on House Bill 2111

The Seattle Times published an unsigned editorial Tuesday making incorrect statements and accusing Representative Tomiko Santos of cowardice. Quite a load of rubbish for one editorial.

The corporate ed reform gang who support the discredited and failed policy of tethering teacher evaluations to standardized test scores (known as “performance pay” or “merit pay”) are apparently all in a tizzy because House Bill 1443 — reincarnated once again as HB 2111 — a mess of legislative sausage-making, is on the ropes. Teachers and parents and any intelligent person who reads the research (Vanderbilt University has conducted multiple studies on merit pay)  and others realize that this is failed concept and its inaccurate “value-added” measures  misjudges teachers and only leads to teaching to the test, cheating — as amply evidenced by Michelle Rhee’s reign of error in Washington D.C. — narrowing of curriculum (standardized tests only cover math and reading, so other subjects are dropped or de-emphasized), and hurts our kids.

I am a parent. I am not a teacher. I have no ties to the teacher’s union and I oppose performance and merit pay.

I oppose using budget induced RIFs as an excuse to address failing teachers — I want my kids’ principals to maintain a strong teaching force at all times, not just when there is a budget crisis. I believe we should reward teachers for their commitment to the profession, so I do not oppose seniority. I recognize that laying off the most recent hire during a fiscal crisis is not a policy that is unique to the teaching profession. It is applied in other fields as well. Yet the corporate ed reformers would have us all believe that “last in, first out” is some bizarre concept invented by the teacher’s union. It isn’t.

So Rep. Tomiko Santos and all the other legislators the Times calls out — Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane and House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle — should hang tough against the bullying anonymous editorial writers of the Seattle Times, and the giant wallets of the Gates Foundation and Broad Foundation whose merit pay, anti-seniority, union-bashing, and kid-harming  policies do not belong in our state laws.

Read the research. Vanderbilt University and other major studies show that performance pay does not improve student or teaching outcomes. Washington DC and Atlanta, GA — centers of cheating, the predictable human reaction to high-stakes testing. When a teacher is told that a student test score will put your job on the line — no matter what else you do for that child as a teacher — what message does that send?

The Times is wrong in implying that the unions alone oppose this seriously flawed bill. Representative Tomiko Santos and the others are also hearing from parents.

It is a common line from the corporate ed reformers to demonize the teachers’ union and declare that “standing up” to it is somehow a mark of courage. This conveniently makes those who attack the union feel like some kind of brave warrior of ed reform. Arguably it takes more courage to stand up against the slings and arrows of anonymous newspaper editorial writers or the clout and influence of billionaires like Gates and Broad and their posse.

Apparently it takes a lot of courage in this country right now to simply stand up for teachers.

And apparently, it takes courage to listen to parents.

These ed reforms are also opposed by parents who realize where they lead. These reforms are bad for teaching, bad for learning, bad for our kids.

Any conscientious lawmaker would read the real research, talk to parents — not lobbyists and foundation-funded Astroturf groups — and vote accordingly.

Rep. Santos should stand by her principles and vote NO to HB 1443/2111 or whatever it’s been rehashed into today.

–Sue Peters

5 thoughts on “The Seattle Times Is Wrong — Parents Do NOT Want Teachers Evaluated by Standardized Test Scores. VOTE NO on House Bill 2111

  1. Ivan,

    There is no other way for such an evaluation to be made besides test scores at this time.

    If you look at how other states have determined “teacher effectiveness” it has been by the use of test scores. As Chris said, those words might not be used in the bill but that is exactly what it means. The wording is based on the reform edicts of Race to the Top. Per my post titled House Bill 2111: Legislative Action Alert:

    But let’s get to the meat of this bill, it is the edicts of Race to the Top but without any funding. These requirements are costly in terms of dollars and disruption and have not worked so far in any other state including Chicago where these ideas were first implemented.

    This is the wording of that portion of the bill:

    The local district superintendent and local school board of a school district designated as a required action district must submit a required action plan to the state board of education for approval.

    A required action plan must include all of the following:

    Implementation of one of the four federal intervention models required for the receipt of a federal school improvement grant, for those persistently lowest-achieving schools that the district will be focusing on for required action. However, a district may not establish a charter school under a federal intervention model without express legislative authority. The intervention models are the turnaround, restart, school closure, and transformation models.

    In other words, according to the requirements of Race to the Top which is no longer being funded, the intervention models are:

    “Turnaround” which means firing half of the school staff and principal and hiring new staff and a principal. In any “low-performing school” I don’t see how that would make a difference. If we instead focus on what the teacher needs and ensuing that our teachers and principals are supported, that the students are ready to learn by supporting the families, then you are addressing the issues. Firing teachers and a well loved principal does nothing but disrupt a community that needs stability more than anything else. A good example of this is what happened in Central Falls last year. And what do you do in less populated communities? Where do you get qualified teaching staff to replace fired teachers? And the answer is not Teach for America recruits.

    “Restart” is converting a public school into a charter school.

    “School Closure” is self-explanatory and again only causes disruption in communities that need stability. In Seattle we have neighborhood schools and right now in many communities we do not have enough classroom space so this alternative would not work in addition to causing unnecessary upheaval.

    “Transformation” is replacing the principal and determining performance of students, and therefore teachers, by test scores.

    Ivan, the way that performance of a student, a group of students or a school are measured for these actions to occur is by examining test scores. Our last supe put that part into action by bringing in the MAP test as a way to determine how a student was progressing but the test was not designed to judge a teacher’s performance but that is how it would be used.

    For additional clarification on this see First Let’s Fire All of the Teachers! by Diane Ravitch.

    When the term “low performing” is used, it means by way of test scores.


  2. Thanks, Chris:

    My state Rep., Joe Fitzgibbon, says that’s a stretch, and that the language in this bill does not give districts that authority. I have confidence in Joe’s judgment, but I remain vigilant.

  3. Ivan, it’s the Seattle Times editorial that makes this connection – check the link. For example:
    “Research shows that when teachers are laid off on a strictly seniority basis, kids affected lose two to three months of learning time compared with schools where reductions were based on teacher effectiveness.” How do you think they are going to determine teacher effectiveness? Magic 8-ball?
    Perhaps they have learned not to say test scores, but testing is undoubtedly the favored tool in the kit for determining “teacher effectiveness.”

    Also note the language in the bill about “underperforming schools.” How is “underperforming” defined? Thanks to GWB and NCLB, it can be any subgroup having low, “flat” or declining test scores. You have to read between the lines.

  4. I read this bill all the way through and could find nothing in it about tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores. Several House Democrats who have co-sponsored this bill (Sullivan, Moscoso, Sells, Fitzgibbon, Reykdal, Kenney) have opposed all such measures consistently, and all have run with strong teacher union support. If you can find where in this bill teacher evaluations are tied to test scores, please enlighten me, because I certainly have not been able to find it. Thanks Sue.

  5. “Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.” President Obama March 28, 2011

    Where do President Obama’s and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s children go to school? What is the school’s policy on standardized testing and merit pay?

    Malia & Sasha Obama Sidwell Friends school
    Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011:
    “We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.”
    Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s children attend Arlington, VA public schools
    Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011:
    “We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.”

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