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Locals against tying teacher salaries with students’ achievement

BY ASHLEY OERMAN | JANUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa students’ performance on certain academic evaluations could soon affect their teachers’ salaries.

But some local teachers are concerned with the state Board of Education’s vote late last week to move forward with a rule that would force Iowa public school districts to base educators’ salaries on the academic success of their students. The board will decide whether the rule will be enacted.

Student achievement rates would be measured by various evaluations that have not been specified yet.

Kevin Koepnick, a City High biology teacher, said he is concerned about the methods that could be used to determine student academic achievement.

“I agree that the best teachers should be paid more, but who knows how to evaluate this accurately,” he said.

The educator of 28 years was also concerned about how urban and rural schools would be evaluated equally.

“Urban schools tend to score lower [on evaluations], but that does not mean the teacher is inadequate,” he said.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, echoed this sentiment, saying it would be a challenge to tie teacher pay to student achievement.

“There are many variables in students’ lives that affect their learning abilities other than teachers,” he said.

He noted the board should consider such factors as hunger, poverty, and the students’ family lives.

However, supporters from the Center for American Progress said this kind of rule “could be adjusted to account for other factors besides teacher skill and knowledge that affect student achievement.”

Additionally, Bolkcom said, he thought the rule would put undue pressure on teachers.

“This should not be the sole measure of a teacher’s salary,” he said.

According to the Center for American Progress’s plan for teacher effectiveness, the group agrees that any use of rankings should not be the only factor in evaluating educators.

Brad Wymer, a West High science teacher, said this kind of pressure could influence educators to teach only the material on the evaluation.

He noted that this kind of teaching would ultimately damage the quality of students’ education.

The rule would affect all school districts in Iowa, unlike Race to the Top legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Chet Culver last week. Around 220 Iowa school districts signed on to the program, including the Iowa City district. One component of the Race to the Top program favors basing teacher pay on students’ academic performance.

On March 2, a public hearing about the rule will be held in Des Moines.


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