Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Bad Idea!

I'm always amazed at the plans some people come up with to improve education. What's worse is that most of these people are educators. This one's a real doozy.

The problems with this are numerous. To begin with, student scores will fluctuate from year to year depending on the make-up of the class being tested. Anyone who's ever worked in education can attest to the fact that each class has its strengths and weaknesses. Some classes have a higher percentage of special needs students. Some classes have a higher concentration of non-English speaking students. Some classes have.. Well, you get the idea. These things are beyond the control of the teacher. Rewarding someone because they had the good fortune to get a good group of students this year will undoubtedly make other teachers angry.

Second of all, any time money is tied to results, there is the impetus to cheat. Given the choice of being fired or getting a bonus, I'm going to pick the bonus. I would like to think that the teachers would do it the right way, but when the pressure's on, people become desperate and will resort to tactics they would otherwise condemn. This district has already had issues with cheating in order to inflate test scores. If bonuses are tied to results, it will happen again.

Third, as if this isn't already a problem in today's schools, tying money to the outcome of one single exam will result in our teachers teaching to the test. As it stands now, there is so much emphasis on test scores that many districts have reduced their curriculum to nothing more than the test objectives. Valuable lessons have been discarded simply because they aren't on the exam. There is no reason to spend time teaching something like music and art if the students aren't going to be tested on it. And what about cross-curricular activities? There's none of that on the exams, so they're O-U-T, out! After all, why should teachers waste their time on other topics if their livelihoods are tied directly to fifty multiple choice math questions?

This idea will not lure better teachers to the district. It will only encourage cheating, hard feelings, and the dumbing down of a district's curriculum. In today's rapidly advancing world, dumbing down our population is not an option we need to be exploring.

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