Teaching is a profession best understood by professional educators. But Utah's legislators, with no expertise, doggedly try, year after year, to micromanage the state's education system.
One of this year's crop of bills that would serve that misguided mission is SB67, a purely top-down directive to schools with no collaboration and no input from the people trained and experienced in either the philosophy or practice of education. SB67 would go too far in dictating how teachers should be compensated, with no data on how such a radical change would affect student achievement, or how it might help or hinder the state in recruiting and keeping excellent teachers.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, would eliminate the present system, which bases teacher raises on years of service and academic degrees, and replace it with one based 60 percent on student improvement and 40 percent on several other criteria.
Just how Adams came up with those percentages is a mystery. But it's doubtful he studied the research on teacher compensation being tied to evaluations that are based primarily on the test scores of students.
In fact, such a formula does little to improve student learning, for a number of reasons. Improvement in student assessments is affected by many things teachers can't control, such as family situations and income, attendance and parental involvement. And compensation alone cannot help teachers to help students.
An evaluation system tied to compensation that includes student improvement but gives equal weight to peer, principal and parent reviews and monitoring of teaching methods is a much more useful model. And when a teacher's evaluation is below standard, the system must also provide ways to help the teacher improve techniques and outcomes.
SB67 does none of those things. That's why the Legislature should pass SB64 instead. It would make teacher evaluations more meaningful because the outcome would affect paychecks, and helpful, because poorly performing teachers would get a deadline and some help to improve.
Another bill that addresses compensation is HB115, which would fund a pilot program called Peer Assistance and Review to harness the skills and experience of the best teachers and give them time to mentor new teachers and veterans whose work is not up to par. Both SB64 and HB115 were written with help from education professionals.
SB67 is simply punitive and would do little to help teachers or students learn.