Smart Teachers Turn Down Bonuses Tied to Test Scores

In Oregon City, the teachers don't want their performance evaluated on student achievement test scores. They are so convinced of this that they recently turned down bonus money that would have been rewarded to teachers whose students performed the strongest on these tests. And good for them. 

The money is called the Teacher Incentive Fund and is part of President Obama's education policy. It's meant to achieve results for students, but many teachers balk at the idea that their pay should be so directly tied to achievement in their students. The government offered the $2.5 million for teacher bonuses based on evaluations and their students' test scores. In other words, teachers whose students do well on tests and who are well-liked get paid more.

The idea isn't inherently awful. After all, there is a crisis in public education and something needs to be done to help all students be able to meet the same goal. On the other hand, tying pay to performance is a slippery slope.


Test scores aren't an easy measure of how well a teacher did, much as we would like to believe otherwise. Some kids just test better than others, and a public school teacher with 22 students (or more) isn't always going to be able to reach every student the same way.

Teaching is an incredibly difficult, demanding job, and sure, there are teachers who are no good. But to pretend like the only reason there is an achievement gap is bad teaching is to be pretty blind. Fixing a problem doesn't necessarily mean throwing some money at people and hoping for the best.

If the problems in public schools are going to be fixed, there are other ways to do that. Continuing education for teachers is one way. Smaller class sizes are another. I am not a public educator (or an educator, period), but I believe the professionals with whom I entrust my children like their jobs and want to teach my kids. But there is no easy way to measure that and test scores certainly don't do that. 

Ideally all teachers would be amazing and love their jobs, or they are in the wrong profession. Certainly that is true. But test scores tell us nothing about how passionate a teacher is or even how effective they are. They tell us how well a teacher can teach to THAT test. As a parent, I trust that I can suss out a good teacher from a bad one, but I won't blame the teacher alone if my child fails any more than I will credit the teacher alone if she succeeds.

Do you think pay should be tied to test scores?


Image via ShuttrKing|KT/Flickr

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