Dorchester Debate #1: Education Performance Pay

If you are not at Dorchester you are missing all the fun. If you can’t be there you still can offer your commenst on the hot topics they will be debating. Below are the pro-con of their four debate topics, please feel free to drop us your comment.

Resolved: Subject to uniform standards established under the No Child Left Behind Act, public funding of schools in Oregon shall be tied to student performance.

Until President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) in January, 2002, public school districts, schools and teachers were not accountable to anyone. This lack of accountability led to failing schools, low-achieving students and a public school system that was crumbling before our very eyes. The poorest neighborhoods and communities have had the lowest-achieving schools for years and nothing was being done about it. The so-called “achievement gap” between white children and African-American, Hispanic and American Indian children fostered the soft bigotry of low expectations among many of our nation’s youth. This is all changing under the strong accountability provisions of the NCLB. Schools that fail to perform, as measured by student performance, are forced to take corrective steps and must regularly report to parents on the school’s performance. After five years, studies show that student achievement among all classes of students, and in all academic areas of study, is improving dramatically. While this is encouraging nationally, Oregon’s school system continues to languish behind other states. A recent independent study considering a variety of public education factors revealed that Oregon ranks 40th in the nation in 2006-2007, down two places from the prior school year. A major contributing factor is the Oregon Department of Education’s and the Oregon Education Association’s outright hostility towards implementing rigorous standards and accountability for low-achieving schools and school districts. It is time for Oregon to take a stand. If a public school fails to “make the grade,” then that public school should not be rewarded. New programs should be implemented, low-performing teachers should be terminated, and, in some circumstances, public funding should be re-directed to those schools and school districts that are committed to improving the educational opportunities and performance of their students. In short, no public school student in Oregon should be left behind.


“Accountability in education,” how can anyone argue against that? But it’s not that simple. Supporters of this proposal point to the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) as a model for school improvement. Closer scrutiny of the Act reveals the flaws in this position. In fact, studies show that this punitive law will, by 2014 when its full effects kick in, label virtually every school in the United States as failing. NCLB has established an increased focus of testing that has taken away from teaching. Teachers in Oregon’s classrooms are now compelled to spend enormous amount of time “teaching to the test” instead of teaching kids fundamental learning skills to last a lifetime. Mandated and scripted teaching programs create substantial tension in the classroom as teachers are prevented from using their professional knowledge and skill to respond to the needs of their students. Moreover, inflexible standardized systems fail to account for kids that learn differently and at different rates for a variety of factors including eating and sleeping habits, socio-economic factors, and others. Even when teachers produce high test results, teachers are penalized if they fail to go higher. Also, student populations change each year but each new class is judged on the successes or failures of the previous classes. The better answer is to provide teachers with the resources and flexibility to maximize student achievement. Rather than pre-packaged programs, teachers need freedom to create curriculum that is related to their children’s lives in their school, and teachers need time, space and resources to teach children rather than test them. We need to listen to teachers and re-examine the blithe claim that we will leave no child behind. Stable funding, teachers rewards instead of punishment, and an open environment where teachers can teach each child based on his or her needs and ability is the best way to assure that no child is, in fact, left behind.

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Posted by at 07:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Any place that has truly tried linking performance to pay (not some watered down junk) has benefited tremendously. It works every time. The only people opposed to performance based pay are those who don’t perform. Plain and simple.
    Why not show some courage and do this. The entire private sector runs, and runs well, on this principle.
    Oregon politicos are WEAK and ineffective.

  • David G.

    I think the big problem Republicans have, here, is that they have forgotten their basic principles. The federal government doesn’t have any business trying to run local schools.

    I certainly see that the public schools are a mess. But I don’t agree that getting the federal government involved will solve anything. Letting that ugly camel get its head in the tent will be a move we will forever regret.

    Republicans should never have supported NCLB. It should be repealed.

  • Historian

    Wait! What about Measure 95 in 2000? The voters of Oregon already rejected this 65%-35%. It failed in 35 of 36 counties (not Malheur – I love the internets). After all the screaming on this website about “what the voters intended” w/ BM 36 and BM 37, I’d think you’d all be offended.

    The “children aren’t widgets” always burries these. Plus, much as it pains Kremer, Sizemore, McIntire, and friends, Oregonians don’t think public school teachers are bad people.

    What happened to 65% for in-class costs? That one seems more plausible.

  • “I think the big problem Republicans have, here, is that they have forgotten their basic principles. The federal government doesn’t have any business trying to run local schools.”

    I could not agree with you anymore. The Federal government is mandating to the states a “one-size-fits-all” “fix”. Not only is it not the Federal governments business, but it fundamentally will not work. Education and school testing should be left solely to the local governments.

  • Chris

    Schools have to “teach to the test”? Good. What exactly would you like them to teach in Math and Reading that the test does not cover? You can’t understand or apply high-level concepts if you do not have the basics down solid.

    • eagle eye

      Chris, I’ve seen plenty of people who have trained for the test but can’t do math because they can’t really think mathematically. I’d like to see the students do better on the tests, but not as an end in itself.

      As soon as you start teaching to the test, to goose the scores of the average or even the below average student, you start excluding everything else, including helping the students who are “getting it” to make the most of themselves.

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