Colorado group rejecting merit pay — now dubbed 'performance pay' — even as Colorado teachers accept money from Gates to promote it

While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard tout the plan in Colorado to establish a form of merit pay (called "performance pay" right now) for teachers in Denver and elsewhere (following a large award of Gates Foundation money to promote the Colorado program), a growing group of parents and others in Colorado is rejecting the idea and publishing their reasons for doing so.

On September 20, 2011, a Colorado group called "Uniting4Kids" announced its opposition to performance pay and provided detailed reasons for their opposition. Their September 20 press release follows:

Uniting4Kids opposes performance pay because evidence shows it is ineffective, costly, and perpetuates inequalities


Friday, September 20th

CONTACT: Angela Engel, 303.908.1954. (September 23, 2011 - Denver, Colo.) Today as President Obama explained to the nation that waivers for NCLB would only be granted to those states that complied with Performance Pay, Uniting4Kids offered the following challenges to the wasteful spending and futile attempts to quantify and standardize Colorado's educators.

1) Research demonstrates that performance cannot be predicted and that financial incentives have an insignificant impact on student test scores. In a climate of "evidenced based outcomes," policy makers need to following the evidence?

2) The estimated cost of SB191, and to implement performance pay in Colorado is $49 million dollars annually. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation only contributed $9 million, leaving Colorado $40 million dollars short. This level of expenditure cannot be justified given that in the past year alone student per pupil funding has decreased by 5.1 percent. Over the past three years $600 million dollars has been cut to K-12.

The statewide average per pupil funding is estimated at $6,468 in FY 2011-12, compared with $6,813

in the prior year.

Read the full summary of the school finance bill SB11-230 and the impacts of these cuts to each district:

3) In all research studies, the highest correlating factor to student test performance is socio-economic status. Basing teacher's pay on test scores unfairly punishes educators who teach children in high poverty communities and who are most at risk. Even longitudinal growth calculations are inadequate because studies demonstrate that growth rates are lower for low-income children and decline even faster as students get older.

4) A decade of CSAP, the Colorado Student Assessment Program, consistently illustrates flat scores. National SAT scores have further declined. Based on a ten year history of flat scores it is predictable that educators would have no increase in salary. Higher stakes won't change the test variables in which educators have not control.

5) In August of 2009, The New Teacher Project, TNTP contracted with CDE to "institutionalize state-level policies, structures, and practices." The Rose Foundation contributed $70,000 and a matching $70,000 was provided by outside national interests. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, TNTP proposed recommendations in the following areas: "developing teacher effectiveness vision and strategy; diagnosing the impact of current state law and policy on teacher effectiveness; and identifying legislative and policy reforms to support the state's application for federal funding."

TNTP is a profit generating model affiliated with Teach for America, TFA, which supplies inexpensive and inexperienced labor to school districts. These interns rotate on a two-year basis keeping labor costs at a minimum and appeal to budget strapped districts. TFA interns are further exempted from the teacher effectiveness mandates because evaluations are based on longitudinal growth over a two-year period, after which the majority of interns have already cycled out. Senate bill 10-191 increases market opportunities for TNTP and its sister organization, TFA. This appears to represents a conflict of interest and illustrates another instance of how policy making has been tied to profit making. The Reading First Scandal similarly promoted a policy model that was not evidenced based and directed public revenues to private interests. Several indictments resulted from that investigation. The Colorado Legislature should further investigate the agreement between TNTP and the Colorado Department of Education.

The full memorandum can be read here:

6) Administrators, educators, students, parents and policy makers all define teacher quality differently. The new standards are subjective criteria, evaluation will always be subjective and conditional and it should be. Attempts to quantify effectiveness, particularly in a field of service, are costly and serve to undermine the professional judgment and effectiveness of our paid administrators.

7) If improving teacher quality were really the goal, teachers would be encouraged to instruct from their position of strength. If children were really valued, then they would be given the resources and supports to succeed. SB10-191 is a "Gotcha" policy that promotes a culture of fear and division and works counter to the kinds of personalized and innovative education approaches we seek. Higher stakes have a proven negative effect on teacher morale, collaborative work and team-building in our schools.

8) Policies that attempt to standardize children or educators reinforce mediocrity and limit the vast potential and unlimited capabilities of diverse and unique individuals? Common expectations and prescribed outcomes kill initiative and diminish individual spirit in children and adults. We should build and create from the strength of our differences.

9) Performance pay and teacher effectiveness models do nothing to address the real problems that Colorado's children are facing:

34,948 at risk 4 yr olds were identified in 2010

9,803 preschool children are unable to attend preschool as a result of insufficient funding and limited access

48% of 1-8 graders in Colorado are on free and reduced lunch

Poverty in the United States has increased by 9% between 2000 and 2006. Today one out of every six children fall below the poverty line. In Colorado, the number of children living in poverty grew by 72%, the highest rate increase in the nation.

Every hour and a half a child is born to a teen mother

According to the Colorado Department of Education the drop-out rate has increased from 2.4 in 2002 to 3.6 in 2009.

The size of Colorado's prison population has increased four-fold in the past 20 years and is expected to grow to over 27,000 people by 2013

Districts have experienced significant budget and staff (FTE) reductions over the past decade while CDE has grown their department by 41%. Angela Engel, director of Uniting4Kids concluded, "While the cost of mandates is increasing, actual resources and services for children are diminishing. When you look at the actual outcomes, it's clear that the reforms over the last decade simply aren't working."

Events and Films

Education Reform and the Denver School Board Race

DATE: Saturday, September 24th 9:45

TIME: House District 6A Democrats, Monthly meetings begin at 9:30

WHERE: Washington Park United Church of Christ, 400 S. Williams, Meeting begins at 9:30

Education Reform and the outcomes for Colorado

DATE: Saturday, October 29

WHERE: Lakewood Library, two blocks west of Kipling, 4 blocks north of Colfax.

TIME: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Evolution Revolution

Movie and Discussion: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman is a very honest discussion about what passes for education reform today and the facts about its failure. Unfortunately, the same issues discussed are being used in Denver's schools today, but all is not lost. It will give us ideas about what we can do to change things for the better.

DATE: Tuesday, September 27

WHERE: Henry Middle School, 3005 South Golden Way (map below)

TIME: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Free of charge

DATE: Sunday, October 23rd

TIME: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: home of Ray Flesher and Betty Harris, 6281 S Cedar St, Littleton, CO 80120.

Please RSVP to 720.560.3806.

Free of charge

This program includes a potluck starting at 5:30 pm and ends with open discussion after the movie which is about 2 hours.

Sponsored by CD6 Littleton/Centennial MoveOn Council, Uniting4Kids and Angela Engel, author of Seeds of Tomorrow.

2010 Kids Count, Colorado Children'sCampaign.

Colorado Annual Dropout Rates by Race Ethnicity 1995-2006, Colorado Department of Education

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