Alas, even my fellow teachers can get policy wrong. The Newark, New Jersey, teachers union just voted to accept a contract that includes merit pay. Of course, if you back teachers to the wall and drag them through two years without any contract, you can pressure them to accept all sorts of bad ideas... including a program dependent on private donations from millionaires with their own self-serving agenda for education.
Governor Dennis Daugaard will surely point to the Newark teachers' vote as justification for his inevitable push for more bad education reforms. Never mind that merit pay still hasn't been tied to any consistent improvements in student achievement. Never mind that merit pay will go to the wrong teachers. Never mind that if we really want to improve our education system, we need to move in the absolute opposite direction from the merit pay, competition, and testing that Newark teachers have been driven to accept.
See also: Finland. Pasi Sahlberg, the floor is yours:
Pasi Sahlberg, an official with Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture, is in Seattle this week to share the story of Finland's success, and what states like Washington can learn from it.
Sahlberg's message, although he is too polite to put it so bluntly: Stop testing so much. Trust teachers more. Give less homework. Shorten the school day.
Finland, in other words, has become an education star by doing the opposite of what's happening in many U.S. schools and school districts, including many in Washington state.
Rather than judging teachers and schools based on test scores, he said, Finland puts trust in its teachers and principals. Teachers develop the curriculum in Finland, and design their own tests. There are no national tests, except one at the end of high school.
That's just the start. Along with a shorter school day, Finnish students don't even start school until they are 7 years old. Many primary schools have a policy against giving homework.
...Sahlberg spoke almost harshly about charter schools, which Washington voters have just approved, saying they privatize the public-school system. In Finland, he said, parents don't angst over where to send their children to school. All the schools, he said, offer the same high-quality program [Linda Shaw, "Finland's Educational Success Story: Less Testing, More Trusting," Seattle Times, 2012.11.14].
Nix Newark. Let's follow Finland!