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Letter: Read research before changing ed policies
Op-Ed · May 10, 2013


I am dismayed each time I read about the current debate over the education budget and the proposal to link teacher evaluation and student test scores.


I’m writing this letter today to encourage other taxpayers to feel dismayed as well. The debate in the House and Senate is often portrayed as a mere disagreement between Democrats and Republicans with Democrats portrayed as being “soft on bad teachers” and too “nice” to ever fire anyone.

But if you look deeper, it seems that at the heart of this (and other aspects of the current proposal) is the push to funnel tax dollars to the corporations that create test materials – from curriculum to test measures to intervention products – and not towards anything that is research-based and proven through experience.

Anyone can go to a library and get on the Internet and look at research and reports written by leading voices in educational policy and see that multiple research studies continually call into question the linking of student test scores to teacher evaluation (see: “Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers found” at www.epi.org/publication/bp278/; or “Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them,” found at annenberginstitute.org/publication/StraightTalk among others.)

These reports by the Economic Policy Initiative and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform provide ample evidence that, though it “sounds logical” – such approaches to school reform have NO track record of having any impact on school quality at all.

They DO have a track record of putting more dollars in the pockets of the large corporations lobbying for their adoptions, but that is not how I wish for my tax dollars to be spent and my guess is that I’m not alone.

Fellow Iowans, I encourage you to join me in asking why we are considering spending our money on reform projects with no research to suggest they will deliver a return on investment.

Taxpaying citizens of Iowa deserve to know why it is that our government is so enthusiastic about putting large amounts of our tax money into reforms that will impact the daily lives of our school-aged children but have been refuted in research and reports by such institutes as Economic Policy Initiative and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform — not to mention the countless numbers of educational professionals who have studied the field and work in it currently.

If these reforms are adopted, we will be condoning the spending of large quantities of tax dollars on approaches to school improvement with a track record of failure. Maybe I’m missing something here, but mostly, I don’t get it: why on earth would we do that?

Jennie S. Schmidt, West Branch

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