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Research and Facts Change Brookings School Board President’s Mind on Merit Pay

Last updated on 2014.12.07

Brookings School Board president Steve Bayer initially thought Governor Dennis Daugaard's merit bonus plan for one fifth of South Dakota's K-12 teachers sounded like a good idea. Then he looked at the facts and changed his mind. In a public presentation January 30, Bayer countered the paucity of evidence given by the Governor for his proposal with evidence showing that merit pay does not work.

Stop merit pay and Governor Daugaard's other bad ideas for education: sign and share this online petition today!

Bayer criticizes the Governor's selective focus on a single factor in student achievement, teacher quality, and suggests reducing class sizes could provide just as much bang for the buck. Bayer also points out a correlation between our drop in NAEP rankings for student performance and a drop in our per-pupil spending rankings. Now you can say that spending more money doesn't automatically make students perform better, but if we're testing hypotheses, there's more evidence that our student performance and our funding effort are changing at the same time than there is that there has been any change in the quality of our teachers. And there's no evidence that any states rising above us in NAEP rankings have done so by adopting merit pay.

But why not listen to Bayer himself? Here's his January 30 presentation:

...and here's the Q&A session afterward:

...and here's the PDF of Bayer's slides. Share and enjoy!


  1. Michael Black 2012.02.17

    Since some form of the governor's plan SHALL pass, I am going to spend more time with my own kids making sure they do better in life and not worry about grades or standardized test scores.

  2. Supersweet 2012.02.17

    Work on creative activites with your children. That is where their future lies. Test scores will take care of themselves.

  3. Owen Reitzel 2012.02.17

    now if he could only talk to Mitchell Superintendent Graves.
    Even if he did Graves wouldn't change his mind. He's trying to carry the water for GDD

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.17

    Stace: then "Bill Clay" had better get on the stick and sign the petition... with his real name.

    SuperSweet: "Test scores will take care of themselves"—exactly! I've taken that approach since I was an MHS Bulldog: don't sweat finals; just bust your chops being curious and creative in class, and the knowledge you need for a well-written final will be there at semester's end.

    Same with teaching: If a teacher is conscientious and well-prepared, she'll automatically teach the standards. Her students will naturally acquire the knowledge they need to be good learners, not to mention to pass the standardized tests, even if they never do one minute of formal test-prep.

  5. Michael Black 2012.02.18

    Cory, the problem is that we are not teaching the basic skills needed to survive in school. Everyone is worried about teaching to the test whether they admit it or not.

    Skill one: how to effectively guess better on a multiple choice test. Eliminate the obvious wrong answers and analyze the possible correct answers. (My son is AWESOME at this)

    Skill two: Make everyone use complete sentences on short answer questions. Impress the need for correct punctuation and grammar.

    Skill three: Teach everyone HOW to write an answer to a short essay question. Eliminate students' anxiety by teaching them correct form and expectations.

    We could dramatically raise students scores if we spent some time in schools learning the art of taking tests and putting the knowledge learned to paper.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.18

    Just to be clear, Michael, the only time I ever teach to a test is when I teach some common English grammar point or some easily confused pair of words and I mention to the kids that the ACT, SAT, and other such tests commonly use such points to trip kids up. But I have never designed a lesson in French, English, or math around "the test".

    But wait, I'm confused: the three skills you want me to teach are test-taking skills. Are you asking me to teach to the test or not?

  7. Michael Black 2012.02.18

    How many college students do you know that had trouble constructing an answer to an essay question? It's a basic skill that should be taught early.

    Teaching HOW to successfully take any test is different than teaching to a standardized test. If you do the first, you don't have to do the second. We can have kids learn.

    We need to change our methods so the kids KNOW the basics before moving on to the complicated. Elementary students should have to worry about algebra before the have multiplication tables memorized. How many high school students know which century the civil war was fought?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.18

    [Another grammar point occasionally tucked into those test questions: different from, not different than. ;-) ]

    How about I do you one better: instead of teaching kids how to take a test, I teach them how to think and solve problems, along with a whole bunch of basic facts and figures? When my students get done, they'll be able to take a test, pass a job interview, and solve real problems on the job.

  9. Michael Black 2012.02.18

    Thank you for the correction Cory. My favorite class in all of college was advanced grammar.

    Your students might be able to do that, but the rest not taught by you will not be so lucky.

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