By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education
Politically motivated program, “Race to the Top” (RTT), hits state politics head on. What did Arne Duncan expect? By putting political goals into an education program, the Department of Education has ensured problems would arise.
(Valerie Strauss, “Hawaii Teachers Reject Contract in ‘Blow’ to Race to the Top,” Washington Post, 1.21.12.)
The Hawaii state teachers have rejected the RTT contract that required performance-dependent teacher evaluation and compensation for the simple reason that no teacher evaluation system shows an accuracy that would guarantee rewarding better teachers.
We can have national curriculum guidelines without harming education. RTT put some of Secretary Duncan’s personal preferences ahead of good education practice. Eliminating tenure would have much more benefit than these uncertain teacher evaluation programs. However, dropping tenure opens up the potential for schools firing the most experienced teachers to save money in times of stress. Instead, we might have a system where the teacher firing process has standards that increased over time so that teachers who have proven themselves for fifteen years would be more difficult to fire than those with only a five-year record.
It’s unclear exactly how best to fix things in the existing system, and I’d like to see comments from others. Moving forward, I would like to see higher pay for teachers tied to better qualifications and a way to eliminate tenure as it now stands. Getting a lifetime job after just three years makes no sense to me. Universities require seven years. Our K-12 schools are more important to our country.
[Updated 1.23.12, 3:30pm.]
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