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Obama and Daugaard Both Wrong on Teacher Merit Pay, Test-Based Evaluations

Edcuation advocate Diane Ravitch is drafting a letter to President Obama urging him to win back the hearts and minds of teachers nationwide by reversing course on a number of his harmful education policies. Her critique of President aligns well with the reasons South Dakotans have to reject Referred Law 16, the ugly mess of school-wrecking policies Governor Dennis Daugaard would foist upon our effective public schools.

Please, Mr. President, stop talking about rewarding and punishing teachers. Teachers are professionals, not toddlers. Teachers don't work harder for bonuses; we are working our best now. Waving a prize in front of us will not make us work harder or better. We became teachers because we want to teach, not because we expected to win a prize for producing higher scores.

Please stop encouraging the privatization of public education. Many studies demonstrate that charters don't get better results than public schools unless they exclude low-performing children. Public schools educate all children. The proliferation of charter schools will lead to a dual system in many of our big-city districts. Charters are tearing communities apart. Please support public education.

Please speak out against the spread of for-profit schools. These for-profit schools steal precious tax dollars to pay off investors. Those resources belong in the classroom. The for-profit virtual schools get uniformly bad reviews from everyone but Wall Street.

Please withdraw your support from the failed effort to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students. The American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education issued a joint paper saying that such methods are inaccurate and unstable. Teachers get high ratings if they teach the easiest students, and low ratings if they teach the most challenging students.

Please stop closing schools and firing staffs because of low scores. Low scores are a reflection of high poverty, not an indicator of bad schools or bad teachers. Insist that schools enrolling large numbers of poor and minority students get the resources they need to succeed.

Please, President Obama, recognize that your policies are demoralizing teachers. Many are leaving the profession. Young people are deciding not to become teachers. Your policies are ruining a noble profession [Diane Ravitch, "Help Write a Letter to President Obama," blog, October 3, 2012].

South Dakota's wingnuttiest conservatives have been freaking out over what they perceive as our Republican Governor's embrace of liberal Democratic policies, especially ObamaCare. If they really want to challenge Governor Daugaard's power, those wingnuts should get practical and help turn back Daugaard's embrace of "ObamaSchool" by telling all their friends to vote against Referred Law 16.


  1. Curtis Price 2012.10.08

    There's got to be a better way to evaluate teachers than test scores.

    Other professionals have levels of board certification to reward effective members of their group, career-standing wise and financially. Why is that not part of the reform movement?

  2. David Newquist 2012.10.08

    And while we are debunking some fabricated myths about teaching, let's look at charter schools. From the Chicago Reader:

    "There are 541 elementary schools in Chicago. Based on the composite ISAT scores for 2011—the last full set available—none of the top ten are charters. None of the top 20, 30, or 40 either.

    "In fact, you've got to go to 41 to find a charter."

  3. Donald Pay 2012.10.08

    Ravitch has an interesting take on this topic because she spent a lot of time advocating for standardized testing and other "reforms" that found support from conservatives and liberals. Unlike a lot of the education reformers, though, she actually believes in using the data gathered from such standardized tests to improve each child's education, not to punish or reward individual teachers.

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