Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Luna bills bad for Idaho schools


I urge state officials to vote "no" on all three bills within the Luna plan. I am a parent and an educator of 15 years, with a master's degree in education. I will begin with, Why are pay-for-performance plans so reliably unsuccessful, if not counterproductive?

( Control: People with more power usually set the goals, establish the criteria and set about trying to change the behavior of those below. If merit pay feels manipulative and patronizing, that's probably because it is.

( Strained relationships: In its most destructive form, merit pay is set up as a competition, where the point is to best one's colleagues. Even those teachers likely to receive a bonus realized that everyone loses—especially the students—when educators are set against one another in a race for artificially scarce rewards.

( Reasons and motives: The premise of merit pay, and indeed of all rewards, is that people could be doing a better job but for some reason have decided to wait until it's bribed out of them. This is as insulting as it is inaccurate. Dangling a reward in front of teachers or principals—"Here's what you'll get if things somehow improve"—does nothing to address the complex, systemic factors that are actually responsible for educational deficiencies. Pay for performance is an outgrowth of behaviorism, which is focused on individual organisms, not systems—and, true to its name, it looks only at behaviors, not at reasons and motives and the people who have them.

( Measurement issues: Pay-for-performance runs far ahead of any data supporting its effectiveness—even as measured by standardized-test scores, much less by meaningful indicators of learning. For many reasons, the Luna plan is not what we need in Idaho. We are a great state with great students. Please give our public education the chance to raise great citizens with critical thinking skills. Our world needs this more than ever.

I don't believe that the laptop plan for all ninth-graders is realistic in many ways: expense, sustainability, IT specialists, teachers versus computer screens, server cost to families, the complicated array of selection of classes and who prescribes the curriculum. I see this as only a business plan, not an educational plan. Please connect the dots between 1993 when Thomas J. Wilford becomes president of Alscott, 1995-2003 Wilford president of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, 2002 Idaho Virtual Academy created in cooperation with K12Nov Wilford becomes a Director of K1, 12/19 K12 donates $4108.71 toward Luna's Primary 2010 fund, 2011 01/29 J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation takes out ad in Idaho Statesman supporting Tom Luna's education plan.

I strongly believe teachers are the backbone of our society, caring and teaching our students to become humane citizens for the future. We want our students to cultivate democratic virtues and to be able to critically deliberate carefully. I, too, believe that teachers definitely should have the right to due diligence and collective bargaining with negotiation in their professions. Please do not derail or hijack public education.


Janet Ross-Heiner lives in Ketchum.

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