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Early Look at Duncan's NEA Speech


In his fourth and final speech on the education reform "assurances" that are featured in the economic stimulus package, Education Secretary Arne Duncan walked into the lion's den NEA convention in San Diego today and called for merit pay for teachers.

It's reminiscent of the National Education Association's big summer confab last year, when Barack Obama was just a presidential candidate, getting booed by some delegates for mentioning performance pay.

My colleague Stephen Sawchuk, who is in San Diego, will have much more on this speech (including whether Duncan gets booed) over at the Teacher Beat.

According to prepared remarks, Mr. Duncan took on some of the prized benefits of being a teacher: tenure, the salary schedule, and union protection.

On tenure:

"When an ineffective teacher gets a chance to improve and doesn’t—and when the tenure system keeps that teacher in the classroom anyway—then the system is protecting jobs rather than children. That’s not a good thing. We need to work together to change that."

On teacher evaluations:

"...to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible."

On teacher pay:

"We’re asking Congress for more money to develop compensation programs 'with' you—and 'for' you—not 'to' you—programs that will put money in the pockets of your teachers and support personnel by recognizing and rewarding excellence."

Duncan also emphasized the importance of improving the quality of school and district leadership, calling on those leaders to accept the same new education-reform demands as teachers.

And if you need a refresher on Duncan's previous speeches on the assurances, read about his standards speech here, data here, and low-performing and charter schools here.


As a teacher, I love merit pay because it rewards our hard work. If you want to make more as a teacher, you should put in the hard work and be rewarded for it. Also, nothing is more frustrating than watching, and hearing kids complain about, an older teacher who is tenured but completely worthless make more than I do.

I've seen plenty of worthless new teachers & really hate it when it's an "us" (new) vs. "them" (old) mentality. I'm of the mindset that merit pay needs to be discussed and teachers unions need to be in on the discussion.

However, it cannot be based on ONE test alone. If we are going to look at assessments, then we need to do a couple of things:
1.) narrow the standards - it needs to be about building upon a students depth of knowledge, NOT on just cramming more information that is simply going to be regurgitated and promptly forgotten.
2.) give a test at the beginning of the year, which covers the standards the students are supposed to learn for that year. Re-test at the end of the year to see what growth as occurred over the course of the school year. This also shows the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a teacher in the course of the year.
3.)Set-up some guidelines as to when students may be ineligible to take a test or their test scores may not count when looking at evaluations. (For example, a student new to the country or one who has been out of school more than they have been in should not be a reflection of the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom).

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