March 22, 2006


Fla. to Link Teacher Pay To Students' Test Scores (Peter Whoriskey, March 22, 2006, Washington Post)

A new pay-for-performance program for Florida's teachers will tie raises and bonuses directly to pupils' standardized-test scores beginning next year, marking the first time a state has so closely linked the wages of individual school personnel to their students' exam results.

The effort, now being adopted by local districts, is viewed as a landmark in the movement to restructure American schools by having them face the same kind of competitive pressures placed on private enterprise, and advocates say it could serve as a national model to replace traditional teacher pay plans that award raises based largely on academic degrees and years of experience.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has characterized the new policy, which bases a teacher's pay on improvements in test scores, as a matter of common sense, asking, "What's wrong about paying good teachers more for doing a better job?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 22, 2006 12:49 PM

Some years ago, I worked with the National Performance Review (a staff office to the White House under Clinton) to find ways to make government work better. Our particular study was about measuring performance.

One thing we learned by benchmarking dozens of companies and how they measure and improve performance was this golden rule:

Beware of what you measure for if rewards are tied to it, human nature will find ways of "meeting the numbers" even though performance may not improve.

In other words you get what you measure. Teachers will tailor their methods to make sure students' heads are crammed with meaningless trivia in order to pass tests so they can get their raises.

I am a big fan of performance based rewards and practices, but there are dangers. And the worst place for abuse is the public sector - like schools.

Posted by: Michael at March 22, 2006 1:35 PM

If the assumption is that menaingless trivia is what's needed to pass tests, you may be right. Better meaningless trivia than anti-West cant or multi-culti drivel, though.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at March 22, 2006 1:41 PM

2+2=4 is meaningless trivia?

Posted by: Sandy P at March 22, 2006 2:23 PM

Interestingly, at the same time, the Republican state legislature in Florida is trying to put through a bill that would exempt from the state assessment tests private schools that take kids from failing schools who are using state vouchers.

Posted by: Foos at March 22, 2006 2:31 PM

As a teacher I would be SORELY tempted to teach the test, period. Then I would grade on a curve.

Oh, wait a minute...shoot, I have morals...

Posted by: Bartman at March 22, 2006 2:36 PM

The Education establishment already controls the back room of the entire testing apparatus.

NCLB is already too thouroughly co-opted to be of any more use.

Posted by: Bruno at March 22, 2006 2:37 PM

"Teaching to the test" has been a gripe for years by teachers complaning about the advent of statewide exit exams. But as of now, the teachers unions have yet to come up with a decent alternative to using those types of tests as the best way to measure student advancement -- much like the Democrats on Iraq, the unions want to get the tests out of the schools, but haven't explained what they plan to do as an alternative if the statewide exams are eliminated.

Posted by: John at March 22, 2006 2:50 PM

As long as the standard of measure is set against improvement above the mean performance of children from the same neighborhood then this is a great way to reward good teachers and weed out the bad ones. If this is a pay for performance based on some national or statewide standard then it won't tell you jack since teachers in poor neighborhhods can only do so much with kids with parents (or more often parent, singular) who just don't give a flip about their child's education.

Posted by: Shelton at March 22, 2006 3:04 PM


Yet it's working.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 3:12 PM


We want them to teach to the test.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 3:13 PM


Meaningless trivia is the essence of an education.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 3:15 PM


NCLB was far too little bang for the massive buck.

Further, the recent capitulation by the administration, in relaxing standards and allowing for too many exceptions, have effectively gutted it.

I've seen the data on improvements in scores for the disadvantaged. I'm not saying it was a total failure. Only that it has been effectively neutered, as are all "reforms" of education.

Killing it is the only answer. It can't be reformed.

Posted by: Bruno at March 22, 2006 4:02 PM


It costs a pittance got tests that demonstrate all public schools to be failures and vouchers that allow kids to change schools. To complete the reform the vouchers will have to be made so that they can be used in private and parochial schools, but that's easy enough in '08.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 4:17 PM

NCLB will kill it, but over time and only if Republicans stick to their guns.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 22, 2006 4:19 PM

It's all B.S. as long as the foxes are the ones counting the chickens in the henhouse.

Even if the tests were being honestly administered, which they are not, most of the states are cheating by the way the set up their goals: easy standards early on, impossible standards at the end of the NCLB period.

That way, even if they can't get the law changed to let them off the hook, the current cheats and thieves will be retired and it won't be their problem.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 22, 2006 4:27 PM


That's the genius of the test regime--in the long run even the best schools can't pass, so the right to a voucher is universalized.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 4:35 PM

Some questions for the teachers out there. 1. If you don't teach to tests, what do you teach to? 2. Why is it immoral to teach to tests? 3. How do we know when something is trivia?

Posted by: erp at March 22, 2006 5:13 PM

Having also spent several years (12) teaching, I can assure you that meaningless trivia has no business in eduction. You teach for understanding, building abilities to think and analyze, not to memorize the answers to a test without having any concept for what they mean.

Guess what? If your paycheck depends on your students passing a test, you're gonna teach the test and not worry about the truly hard task of installing the tools for thinking and analysis inside the students' heads.

Teach the test - screw the rest will become the NEA motto.

Posted by: Michael at March 22, 2006 6:00 PM


That's absurd. Perishingly few people are capable of benefitting from such an education. The rest we just want to make functional citizens. If they can pass the standards we set for them we've achieved all that we can hope for.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:05 PM

Teaching students how to analyze and think is only for a select few? How "elitist" of you to think that way. Will they all become rocket scientists? No, but they still have to be able to use logic and reasoning to figure out how to fix your engine on your car when it won't start or is running roughly. That person would be a functioning citizen.

There is nothing wrong with standards, per se. But without adequate controls, which I can bet right now no one will be willing to fund, the teachers will game this system looking for the numbers that get them their raises and to Hell with students' abilities. To memorize answers to tests without having any idea about what they mean, which is what teachers would do if their paychecks were in the balance, is worthless.

I detect a bit of the sycophant in you. You are defending your position more out of some loyalty to the snake McCain rather than thinking about what is best for education. I hope I am wrong about that.

Posted by: Michael at March 22, 2006 6:17 PM


No, they don't.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:21 PM

Teaching the test is wonderful. Just make sure what's in the test. Sure, the system will be gamed, but that's nothing new. Don't make the best the enemy of the good. Back in the day we were tested all the time. Stressful? You bet. But all in all, I think it was for the best. I guess I'm a Darwinist. Never thought so, but if a system has goals and standards, I suppose that's asking too much .

Posted by: jdkelly at March 22, 2006 7:20 PM

How is "memorizing answers" to a test any different from what education is and has been in this country,if not in any other?

Teacher stands in front of class for forty minutes talking, tells you to go home and read text book, gives you test on what you read and were lectured on.

That's what my experience at a parochial grammar school and a very good public high school was.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 22, 2006 7:24 PM

Jim, I think we were memorizing our culture. Pretty good thing. The "educational" powers that be hate that culture, and one of the best ways to denigrate it was, and is, to attack teaching such competence. Not paranoid, but I wonder if they don't want such competence. But like I said, I'm not paranoid. I do have real enemies.

Posted by: jdkelly at March 22, 2006 7:56 PM


"No, they don't."

Who is 'they' and what is it they 'don't' do?


"teaching the test" as I define it is maybe different that what you understand it to be. When I was a teacher, that was a disgraceful thing to do. It requires only rote memory and no understanding of anything. In order to accomplish "teaching the test" the teacher has to have access to the test and then just primes up the students with answers, like "If you see a question that says what is the square root of 4, just pick answer b." That is not wonderful.

Being able to figure out the square root of 4 requires understanding of the concept of square roots. Teaching a kid to be able to do that so that they can answer a test question regardless of which number for which the square root is asked is real teaching. But that second kind of teaching will be suborned by the first if performance measures are based on student performance on tests without close scrutiny to prevent teachers from gaming the system for higher pay. Just today, over 1300 teachers called in sick to the Detroit school system over a union dispute, forcing the schools to shut down. That hurt thousands of students by depriving them of their training for that day but the teachers could care less.

I am a very big fan of producing students who can actually compete in the world today and historically, we've been the best nation in the world to do that. We've lost that edge due to the sorry state of our education system and band-aid measures applied without adequate controls will produce even worse results - and you certainly cannot count on the NEA or other teachers' unions to care. I now wonder how we can even get parents to care, since they're the ones that let this system decay in full view. Most parents today look at the public school system as a free day care program and little else. I support vouchers. Let the high performance schools (based on student abilities - not test taking) get the tax dollars and the students. The system will right itself in no time if competition ever gets back into education.

Posted by: Michael at March 22, 2006 9:22 PM

"be able to use logic and reasoning"

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 9:28 PM

Michael, Seriously, how many teachers do you think know what a square root is and/or how to calculate it?

You're obviously being facetious when you say that teaching to the test means telling kids the answer to Question 4. is b. That's not only immoral, but illegal, however, I can't see why there's anything immoral in teaching the concepts around why b. is the correct answer.

Posted by: erp at March 23, 2006 3:27 PM