Our Opinion: Education bill’s mixed bag needs examination
Monday, March 7, 2011
Teaching should be treated much like any other profession.
Consequently, the job security provided by academic tenure should be eliminated.
Tenure originated to protect and encourage the free flow of ideas by shielding teachers from termination for voicing unpopular concepts or dissenting ideas.
In modern society, however, free speech is amply protected — up to and including protests at military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
As a practical matter, tenure insulates poor teachers from being fired. For the record, we have high regard for the teaching profession. But, like any other profession, it harbors some incompetent practitioners.
Last December in this forum we referenced an Associated Press-Stanford University poll in which 78 percent of respondents expressed frustration that tenure complicates efforts to fire teachers who perform poorly.
Eliminating tenure is a provision of an education proposal sponsored by Rep. Scott Dieckhause, R-Washington.
Other provisions would remove classroom experience as a factor in salary considerations and require 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student performance, as measured by state tests.
We have concerns about these proposed changes in evaluating teaching performance.
First, we believe classroom experience enhances performance.
As in other professions, experience teaches and reinforces what works and what doesn’t, as well as how to perform more efficiently and effectively.
We also have misgivings about basing half of a teacher’s evaluation on student performance.
Although a teacher may impart the same lesson in class, not all students learn the same material at the same rate. People — both young and old — have different learning styles and abilities.
Educating a student is not equivalent to manufacturing a product or assembling a vehicle.
We share the concern voiced by state Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall — a retired educator — who fears the provision provides a financial incentive for teachers to seek top students and shun those who need help.
Although competition has merit in many endeavors, cooperation among teachers promotes sharing teaching techniques and strategies.
Legislative committees are not unlike classrooms where scrutiny and discussion help distill an appropriate result.
The education proposal is a mixed bag of provisions that deserve to be eliminated, tweaked or retained. We encourage lawmakers to subject the bill’s provisions to a thorough examination.