Teachers and student performance


Thanks in part to federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation, it’s now possible to track each student’s academic improvement from year to year, from classroom to classroom.

The old objection to holding a teacher responsible for student performance was that … a better and harder-working teacher might end up “looking bad” because he or she got saddled with a room full of knife-wielding delinquents from broken homes, many of whom didn’t even make it through the year.

But modern computer tracking can overcome that objection. If individual kids did well the year before and the year after they were exposed to teacher X — but their progress stalled in his classroom — that could now be determined.

All this would now be possible — except that the teachers union used its influence in Carson City to make sure that using the available achievement statistics in that way is banned. …

The Nevada State Education Association saw to it in 2003 that NRS 386.650, intended to “establish and maintain an automated system of accountability” for the public schools, includes a provision that, “The information maintained … must not be used for the purpose of evaluating an individual teacher or paraprofessional” — thus rendering the whole exercise pretty much pointless. …

This debate over teachers unions using their political muscle to protect the least competent of their members will become ever more relevant here in Nevada, as various initiative questions move forward, seeking to raise taxes and divert that added loot into teachers’ bank accounts — still without any demand that the raises flow only to those who are demonstrably succeeding with their young charges.

“If unions are telling us there’s no connection between teaching and learning, why should we then support teachers, or public education?” [writes John Merrow, a former high school and college teacher who now serves as education correspondent for the “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” in the May 9 Wall Street Journal].

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