• Research doesn’t back Daugaard’s merit pay proposal, Bayer says
Brookings School Board President Steve Bayer is asking South Dakota to forget the governor’s merit pay idea and instead put enough money into its current school funding formula that all public schools would have less than 20 students in each of their K-5 classrooms.
Bayer made his proposal at the end of a special school board meeting Monday evening at Mickelson Middle School, during which he offered “A closer look at the governor’s proposal to reform K-12 education.” Following the presentation, the school board took questions from the 50 or so audience members. Also, board member Tom Yseth told Bayer he has full backing by the board when he gives this presentation to the School Administrators of South Dakota executive board today in Pierre.
Bayer said when he first heard Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposal to pay a $5,000 bonus each year to the top 20 percent of teachers in each school district – and $3,500 to every middle and high school math and science teacher – he liked the idea.
“Didn’t like the state control vs. local control but, generally, what I heard I thought was good,” Bayer said.
“Then I started hearing from our teachers and they didn’t think it was so good.”
Merit pay: neither bad nor good
In his own lengthy research over the past few weeks, Bayer said he has found studies of merit pay show that it does no harm but does not increase student achievement.
Bayer asserted that Daugaard’s plan ties merit pay – the $5,000 bonuses – not to student achievement but to teacher evaluations. That’s because the plan would pay an arbitrary top 20 percent of teachers, not all teachers who help students achieve a level of excellence in their studies.
Bayer said the governor’s plan would use the Danielson Group’s Framework for Teaching to evaluate and rank teachers for merit pay, but framework creator Charlotte Danielson is on record as being opposed to using her framework for merit pay. That’s because about 5 percent of teachers will achieve “excellence” in the framework over the years, but they fluctuate based on their students and other circumstances, Bayer said.
Good teachers are a factor in student achievement but not the only factor, Bayer said: Ample research has shown that class size is also a factor. And South Dakota has dropped in its ranking on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in relation to how much it spends per pupil on K-12 education, he said. No states that have passed up South Dakota on this evaluation have used merit pay to do so, Bayer added.
In a recent interview, Daugaard told the Argus Leader’s editorial board that he is opposed to the “Moving South Dakota Forward” initiative, which would split profits from a one cent sales tax between K-12 education and Medicaid, because it is based on the idea that education is underfunded. Daugaard said he believes it is already adequately funded.
Bayer disagreed, saying test scores show that no state shows as much student achievement as South Dakota for the money it spends. He said the governor has created a false perception that the system is broken by highlighting certain data and leaving out others.
“Based on the data I presented, I would say our education system isn’t broken, it’s underfunded,” Bayer said, asking for the money to keep K-5 class sizes under 20 students apiece.
Q & A
• Asked about the part of Daugaard’s proposal that would end teacher “tenure,” Bayer said he has not yet formed an opinion on it. Brookings Superintendent Roger DeGroot said superintendents are changing their stance on it: While 57 percent liked the idea when Daugaard first proposed it, about 80 percent are now against removing tenure, which teachers and the Brookings board have said is simply a right to due process if a teacher’s contract is to be terminated.
n Donna DeKraai, co-president of the Brookings Education Association, asked whether test data being used in these arguments is reliable, because of a large number of federal mandates imposed in 2002 by what’s known as No Child Left Behind, and because test makers tweak their tests when students get too good at taking them. Curriculum Director Mary Sprecher said it is true that test makers “re-center” their tests when scores begin to creep up.
• Pam Merchant, former S.D. senator and current head of the Mickelson Middle School Parent-Student-Teacher Association, asked what accountability measures the state needs to put in place, in order to earn a waiver from the federal government for No Child Left Behind.
“Not only trying to stall this,” Merchant said. “I’d like to hear some ideas of accountability.”
DeKraai said Senate Bill 25 would provide for a new accountability system to replace NCLB. Board member Larry Rogers said the bill changes NCLB’s “adequate yearly progress” to “academic progress,” but otherwise leaves the accountability structure mainly intact. DeKraai said she would like to see a teacher-to-teacher mentoring program and collaboration time planned into any accountability system the state uses.
• Asked what comes next, Bayer told everyone listening Monday to contact their legislators in favor of whatever they’d like to see happen. Bayer has already spoken with them, having given the same presentation to all three local state representatives on Friday.
“They’re willing to listen to factual arguments; emotional arguments won’t go very far,” he said.
DeGroot added that residents can attend upcoming Cracker Barrel forums at Brookings City Hall, Feb. 11 and Feb. 25, at 9 to 10:30 a.m. both days, to express their opinions.
“Don’t just say, ‘No, this doesn’t work.’ They want to know what works,” DeGroot said.
Contact Charis Ubben at cubben@-brookingsregister.com.