When voters in Wisconsin passed Act 10 in 2011, it limited collective bargaining to base salaries but let school districts negotiate pay with individual teachers on factors other than years of service and degrees held (“Scott Walker’s School Bonus,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 30). According to a study awaiting peer review by Stanford University economic researcher Barbara Biasi, the results have been most beneficial for all concerned.
What I want to know is who are these teachers and how are they identified? Presumably, everyone in a particular school is said to know them. But I question the truth of that assumption. Unless students are randomly assigned to teachers, which is extremely rare, it’s unfair to draw conclusions about their effectiveness. When I was teaching English in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I was sometimes given a class of bright, motivated students. They made me look much better than I deserved. Conversely, when I was assigned a class of gang members and other future felons, they made me look much worse than I deserved.
So if I were teaching in Wisconsin and wanted to take my chances negotiating a higher salary, would I qualify under Act 10? There are simply too many factors not given proper consideration in this policy. The assumption that “everyone knows” who is a good teacher is not always accurate.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.