JIM CREES: Evaluate teachers? How about, evaluate politicians

Michigan legislators are working hard to fulfill a long-standing ultra-conservative dream.

Lawmakers are better situated than ever before for creating, sending to the floor, and passing legislation that will directly connect a teacher’s pay to that same teacher’s performance in the classroom.

Proponents suggest that by tying teacher evaluations to their pay, or at least their pay increases, those teachers will naturally do a better job in the classroom.

Detractors say this is simply a bunch of hooey.

Shelby Township Republican representative Pete Lund told a gathering of reporters, “We want to reward teachers who are good teachers, whose students learn and grow. That’s what our goal is, and that’s one thing this bill will accomplish.”

What ...um ...er ...naiveté.

I would suggest the effort to connect teacher’s pay to teacher performance is simply another way of vilifying, belittling, and denigrating the huge majority of teachers working in public education today.

Fact is, with the proposed legislation teachers basically will be evaluated not on their own performance in the classroom, but rather on their students’ performance - and largely on the students’ performance on standardized tests.

Teachers who have tried the best they can to lift up students and inspire them to succeed, will actually be evaluated based on any number of factors contributing to a specific student’s success or failure.

Through extensive research, for example, it is well known that parental involvement in a student’s educational experience, is arguably one of the most influential factors in that same student’s success or failure.

So, it stands to reason that in evaluating a teacher on a student’s performance via standardized tests, the state is actually evaluating the performance of parents and home life - factors over which the teacher has no control whatsoever.

Teachers will be evaluated not on their individual efforts and performance in the classroom, but rather on the test results of kids who come from a wide range of home environments, in school districts that may be under-funded and struggling just to keep the building heated, and in classrooms that are overcrowded and disruptive.

Teachers will be evaluated not on their work and dedication, but rather on test results arrived at through standardized tests that still today are heavily skewed to specific demographics.

Teachers will be evaluated on their performances in keeping up with the continuing and growing mandates based on an odd combination of Ayn Rand-ian theory and Mackinac Center for Public Policy ‘thought.’ Or more accurately, they will be evaluated based on a public education policy created at the DeVos family dinner table.

Teachers will not be honored for raising an “E” or “D” student to being a “C” student, despite the fact that this is sometimes a huge leap.

Instead they will be penalized and castigated for not lifting an “E” student to being an “A” student.

And all by reviewing tests that many, many, many students simply ignore and fail on purpose because there is absolutely no incentive for them to succeed. Most standardized tests, (as every educator and legislator knows to be true), mean nothing to students, but rather waste incredible amounts of valuable teaching time creating false statistics that are then used as “proof” that public education is a failure.

Evaluating teachers?

I’d suggest there indeed should be an evaluation of teachers’ abilities and productivity, and that should be done by the local authority - people who know and can best review a teacher’s performance.

Evaluation of teachers should not be measured against a set of statistics designed by someone who flips on a computer in an office, but never experiences the classroom environment in which the teacher functions day in and day out.

But, wait!

Teachers are, after all, public servants working on the public dime. They take taxpayers’ money, and so they should be evaluated and prove their worthiness to accept tax-funded salaries.

It’s just right. No?

Well, why can’t we set salaries for ALL public employees by the same scale of evaluation - an evaluation based on success and performance.

Why aren’t the pay scales of cops and firemen strictly based on successes and failure in their given field?

Why should those responsible for Michigan roads not have their pay scales measured against the state of the highways and byways?

Why should public prosecutors not be docked pay for every case they lose?

And most appropriate to this argument, if the plan is to evaluate teachers for their performance in the classroom, why should we not be able to evaluate politicians in Lansing for their performances, and set their salaries in relation to an annual review?

Why should the folks in the House, Senate, and the governor’s office not have their pay determined by their ability, (or lack thereof), to get the job done in the most effective and efficient manner?

One thing is for sure, the work teachers do on a daily basis is far, Far, FAR more important then the silliness that takes up a huge amount of the time of many political representatives in Lansing.

If the folks in Lansing were being paid after a careful review of their effectivity and performance, some of them would probably be working for free.