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Should pay be tied to tests?

February 22, 2005

Wendy Leece

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, we asked our parent panelists if merit pay

for teachers is a good idea. If it is, how can you accurately measure

teacher performance?

Yes, teachers should be accountable for student failure, and merit

pay is sure to shake up the teachers unions.

Teacher pay would be tied to student performance on tests. A

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teacher whose students' scores were raised significantly would be

rewarded. (See http://www .pacificresearch.org).

Here in Newport-Mesa, we expect our children to receive an

excellent education. Each year children should improve their ability

to speak and write the English language, and understand history,

science and math facts. A little art, music and physical education

are important too. While at school, we expect our children to learn

and practice virtues consistent with our community values. We are

thankful for the many outstanding Newport-Mesa school teachers who

work diligently to impart knowledge, and overall, we are satisfied

with our children's achievements.

But I know many parents who have experienced frustration when

faced with an ineffective teacher or administrator. Should they take

action, parents risk being labeled troublemakers and the possibility

their children could be adversely affected. Sometimes the parents

prevail and a teacher is removed. But the education bureaucracy and

union process are not conducive to dealing with alleged mediocrity or

unprofessional conduct in a timely manner.

Recent implementation of state teaching standards and the federal

No Child Left Behind requirements force teachers to teach

quantifiable content. Merit pay would raise the bar higher.

In the coming months, we can anticipate an intense battle between

the governor and teachers unions. All sides should see the value of

good test results for our children. Locally, discussions of merit pay

and teacher salaries should be held in public, not behind closed

doors. Merit pay won't work unless taxpayers hold local school

leaders accountable.

In the meantime, the only sure way for parents to deal with

problems is to confront the teacher or the administration and

persevere until there is a satisfactory resolution. If parents were

involved in what is happening in our classrooms, we wouldn't need an

intervention such as merit pay.

A better idea would be that the parents who pay the teachers'

salaries hold all teachers accountable to teach excellence in each

and every classroom.

* WENDY LEECE is a parent who lives in Costa Mesa and is a former

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