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Aug 15: Teacher merit pay, Education standards

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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Richard Piatt discusses the best way to reward exceptional teachers with Utah Education Association president Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and Rep. Greg Hushes, R-Draper.

Also, several of Utah's high-poverty schools are now meeting No Child Left Behind standards. In addition, last week the Utah State Board of Education adopted a new set of national education standards. Utah State Superintendent Larry K. Shumway, Sen. Margaret Dayton and UEA president Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh explore these programs.

Segment 1:

A new year begins in a few weeks for most schools in Utah. This year, five schools will be testing out a pilot program that could affect the pay of all teachers down the road. Rep. Greg Hughes and UEA president Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh join Sunday Edition to discuss the best ways to reward excellent teachers.

Hughes says part of his motivation for sponsoring the bill that created the merit pay pilot program is to recognize the teachers who are going above and beyond.

If we can recognize excellence in education in the classroom, we think that it's a worthy goal and one that we're pursuing.

–Rep. Greg Hughes

"We know that educating our children here in Utah is a big challenge and we really wanted to incentivize some of our best teachers and some of the educators to go above and beyond," explains Hughes. "If we can recognize excellence in education in the classroom, we think that it's a worthy goal and one that we're pursuing."

Creating the criteria to determine excellence for the merit pay pilot program was a collaboration between administrators, educators and parents at the five schools. Fishbaugh says teachers appreciate being part of the process, because in many merit pay systems they are ignored.


According to Hughes, rewards work in the business world and he believes that if the right people set up the system it will be successful.

However, Fishbaugh questions the efficacy of a merit pay program and worries programs place too much emphasis on testing.

"People who enter the teaching profession are not entering the profession because it pays big dollars, but we do have a very clear understanding of what constitutes education excellence in the classroom. Some of the things that we are concerned about may be eroded by a program such as pay for performance based on test scores, are things like collaboration, acquisition of skills and knowledge, mentoring," explains Fishbaugh. "Good teachers use tests to design and inform their instruction, not as a reward for pay."

Segment 2:

On Monday, the Utah State Office of Education released No Child Left Behind data on Utah's highest-poverty schools. Eight of Utah's low-income elementary schools are now meeting No Child Left Behind standards. Two years ago, these schools were labeled as failing. Eight other Title 1 schools, however, did not make the cut.

Also last week, the Utah State Board of Education voted to adopt a set of new education standards. Utah joins more than thirty other states in adopting the Common Core State Standards. The initiative, led by the National Governors Association, creates a more unified set of education goals throughout the country.

State superintendent Larry Shumway, Sen. Margaret Dayton and, again, UEA president Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, discuss No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards.

Shumway clarifies that these new standards are not federal standards.

I want the states to be in charge of the education for the states. I am concerned when we accept national standards and we don't have national assessments in place.

–Sen. Margaret Dayton

"They are common standards adopted and created by states. The U.S. Department of Education wasn't involved in their creation, they are entirely voluntary," says Shumway. "Having clear standards to guide our teaching and learning will help us improve instruction. These standards were reviewed by several outside entities and found to be equal or better than the standards we've had."

The standards are in math and language arts. "They are intended to ensure that every child is career or college ready at the end of high school," Shumway explains.

The UEA supports the Common Core State Standards.

"These standards were developed by governors as well as teachers. Teachers were very integral in developing these standards," Fishbaugh says. "And in addition, from a teaching perspective, I can think of several times when I have had children come into my classroom from other states and having the common core standards would be very beneficial in terms of continuing the learning process for those students."

According to Dayton, the No Child Left Behind Act created the opportunity to create these kinds of national standards. She thinks that the states have a constitutional responsibility to be in charge of education for their state.

"I don't want to obligate us to kind of national standards or prevent us from using our own expertise and abilities to be competitive and innovative in our efforts to excel, or achieve, or do what's best for our state," Dayton explains. "I want the states to be in charge of the education for the states. I am concerned when we accept national standards and we don't have national assessments in place."

Viewer Feedback:

Kathy:"I think if there is any merit pay at all, it should be done as a collaborative effort where the success of the whole school is involved, not just individual teachers. If everyone works together to improve learning (not just test scores), then the reward is worth it. That type of system would include not only classroom teachers, but also the library teachers, music teachers, paraprofessional teachers, counselors, etc. It would also be a challenge to "bad teachers" to step up their game and improve their skills. Also, I applaud the pilot group idea, instead of passing the bill first and then shoving it down the teacher's throats. We are still choking down NCLB."

Frank Thompson:"Please consider promoting and truly rewarding national board certified teachers (NBCT) in Utah's classrooms -- the results of which are all backed up by research. We need an initiative to get this state moving in that direction, instead of these piecemeal initiatives that have no research to back them up and the roulette results of testing scores depending on the students assigned -- in and out -- at any given time. Also, I would like Utah to consider teachers being able to move among districts without "years of service" penalty. This would allow teachers to teach where and what they are good at, saving much fuel and time. It is very punitive to teachers to have to stay in one district for 30 to 35 years even when they eventually live great distances away."

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