The Problem of Tying Teachers' Pay to Student Test Performance

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an open letter to college professors written by retiring high school teacher Kenneth Bernstein that read, in part:

You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution...

In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift...

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America's teachers-if he or she cannot get teachers' voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, the State Board Education is "discussing the possibility of tying teacher pay to test scores."

[Image via AP]