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Iowa union opposition to tougher teacher evaluations could sink reform bill

May 8, 2013 by

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa’s teachers’ knee-jerk opposition to having their job evaluations linked to student achievement may end up costing them thousands of dollars in salary – and in some cases, even their jobs.

The Des Moines Register reports that teacher union leaders and their friends in the Democratic Party are opposing a wide-ranging education reform bill because it calls for new teacher evaluations that include some measure of student learning.

Because the unions can’t accept that small bit of accountability, they’re holding up a promising bill that would increase the starting minimum teacher salary by $7,000 (from $28,000 to $35,000) and increase per pupil aid by roughly $300. The extra money could be used to provide teachers with more training and compensation for extra duties.

The legislation also allows first-year teachers to have a lighter work load, in order to ease their transition into a challenging profession that has a high turnover rate.

In short, Iowa’s lawmakers are doing their best to make the teaching profession more appealing and rewarding. They’re prepared to spend $580 million over the next five years to implement their plan, and an additional $187 million per year after that, according to The Des Moines Register.

Iowa’s teacher unions like the extra spending, but they say new evaluations are a deal breaker.

“Many Democrats and teachers union leaders say they fear the legislation could be used to judge educators solely on their students’ standardized test scores,” reports The Des Moines Register.

Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass doesn’t understand their opposition to the reform bill.

“The argument that this is purely (using) test scores to evaluate teachers is vastly incorrect,” Glass told the Register. “There are a number of ways to use student outcomes as part of an evaluation that don’t include test scores.”

Those alternative measurements of student learning would be decided upon by a council made up largely of educators, the Register reports.

It seems that Iowa’s lawmakers are offering the unions a very generous deal, but it’s still not good enough.

The unions’ opposition could be very costly.

The Register reports that if Iowa’s reform legislation gets derailed, the state won’t be awarded a waiver to the most onerous requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

And under the terms of NCLB, if all students are not performing at grade level in math and reading, schools could face “stiff penalties, including mandates to replace staff or a takeover by a state of contracted private education firm,” the news site reports.

That’s quite a risk teachers are willing to take just to oppose the common sense idea of measuring their effectiveness.

Iowa union opposition to tougher teacher evaluations could sink reform bill – :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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