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Letters to the Editor: San Francisco Chronicle

November 5, 2012
downtown sf

Downtown San Francisco (photo by the author)

Last week, the teachers unions in San Francisco and Oakland declined to support district applications for the latest round of Race to the Top grants, which will go directly to districts rather than to entire states.  I remain skeptical about this approach, both in terms of its potential failure as a driver of real and sustainable improvement, and also its heavy-handed federal intrusion into state and local policy.  (See “Duncan Seeks Cheap Conversions”).  As a subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle, I knew what to expect: editorials blasting the teachers and unions, with barely a hint of acknowledgment about the reasons that these teachers associations followed the same route as associations in many other California cities.  I wrote two letters to the editors last week, but neither was printed, so I offer them up here instead – with some links added in for good measure.  (For some other letters on both sides of the issue, see SFGate).

October 30, 2012

Editors –

Like teachers around the state and the country, San Francisco teachers have seen Race to the Top grants for what they are – overreaching federal pressure to adopt politically favored policies that are educationally unsound.  It’s not leadership; it’s bribery.

Current state tests are neither valid nor reliable as tools to evaluate teachers.  One only need look to Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, or districts in Tennessee and Florida to see how such policies and approaches consistently make teacher evaluations less effective and less reliable.

Thousands of New York principals have taken very public stands against mandated use of state tests for teacher evaluations.  Increasing numbers of parents are opting out of testing for their children.  Hundreds of school boards in Texas adopted resolutions against excessive testing. Teachers who resist the pressure to sacrifice professional standards at the altar of money and politics are doing the right thing for students.

November 2, 2012

Editors –

Criticism of local teachers unions has filled your pages this week. Your Thursday editorial argues it’s appropriate to use student test scores in teacher evaluation as long as there are multiple measures.  A Friday letter to the editor laments that teachers can’t find a way to use “valid test scores” in evaluations.  Both pieces miss the point: test scores are neither valid nor reliable measures of teaching effectiveness, according to the standards set forth by major professional associations for educational measurement and research.

Friday’s political cartoon suggests federal aid is a life preserver for imperiled schools.  If schools are imperiled, why is it acceptable to withhold aid while extorting teachers for political reasons?  And note, that aid has not yet been offered; teachers are being asked to abandon professional principles merely for the application.

Columnist Chip Johnson dismisses one critique of the tests by saying “these tests were never designed to do that,” and then goes on to advocate using tests for teacher evaluation, even though they were never designed to do that.

Based on professional standards, and lessons learned from failed systems around the nation, our local unions made the right call for students.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2012 7:00 am

    It’s also important to note that accepting RTTP funds has actually cost some states. ( The conditions are more expensive than the money being offered. It is definitely not a life preserver.


  1. Race to the Top: Mixed Reactions in the Bay Area « InterACT

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