Letter: New teacher evaluation system far from fair - East Valley Tribune: Letters To The Editor

Letter: New teacher evaluation system far from fair

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Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 9:11 pm

Due to the budget overrides failing to pass, it seems incredibly likely that there will be no salary increases for teachers at all next year. Furthermore, the new evaluation system, mandated by the state and federal governments, is supposed to begin influencing teacher salary next year, with 33 percent of their income based on a combination of test scores and teacher observations by administrators. What this means is that next year teachers will only be guaranteed about two-thirds of their current salary.

The balance of teacher income will be based on ranking as compared to other teachers and, hypothetically, students performance on standardized tests, though there isn’t a standardized test created for history, foreign language, and several other subjects. Teachers who have the lowest test scores and administrative reviews, hypothetically, would only take home two-thirds of their current pay, whereas the best-rated teachers might see their salary go up by one-third. The problem is the subjectivity of the rating process.

East Valley administrators are doing their best to assure inter-rater reliability, but you can foresee nightmare lawsuit scenarios where a teacher, who is having his or her salary cut, might claim that personal grudges or, worse, racism or sexism are the reasons for a low ranking. Even if perfectly implemented, the new system turns the profession into a cut-throat world in which my success is predicated on your failure and that concept, if people were really honest in thinking about it, is not what’s best for students. For example, “good teachers” might feel justified in criticizing their co-workers (as often happens in corporate and political America) either to administrators or to students in the hopes that the negativity might have an adverse impact on student performance and administrator ratings and, therefore, boost the critical teachers’ chances of being ranked higher.

You can argue that a short-term effect of the system will be to encourage “bad teachers” to leave the profession by having their pay cut, and that may happen to some degree, but if the system becomes perpetual then it will prevent new teachers who, fresh out of college, will have to compete directly with seasoned, master teachers and will likely have to live on starting salaries in their first few years of teaching that are one-third smaller than their current levels. Statistically, this would mean that a starting teacher, whose salary might be in the neighborhood of $30,000 today, if they were to rate on the lower end during their first few years, would earn as little as $20,000 — right on the poverty line for a single person and below poverty for one with a family. Another disturbing factor is that these rules do not apply to private and charter schools, meaning that these schools will likely become more attractive to educators, further siphoning good teachers out of the public school system.

Perhaps that is the unspoken goal of our state government; the destruction of the public school system leading to the privatization of education.

Charles Johnson

Queen Creek

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